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Driving and the Elderly

             A driver's licence is not a right; it is a privilege granted to people who are deemed physically and mentally fit to be behind the wheel of a car. .
             It is also a necessity for millions of Canadians, allowing them independence, mobility and the chance to do everything from getting to work, to going shopping, to taking a vacation. .
             For an elderly person, the ability to drive is especially important. .
             Yet, the tragic death of 10 people last week when an 86-year-old driver sped through a farmers market in Santa Monica, Calif., is another sad example of why the right to drive cannot overtake the safety of others on the streets and sidewalks, or in passenger seats. .
             The accident recalls similar ones in Ontario, including a case in 2000 in which an 84-year-old Toronto woman was charged with careless driving and failing to stop after she struck and dragged Beth Kidnie, 43, to her death. A month later, an 82-year-old driver killed a 13-year-old girl and injured her mother while reversing her car at the Burlington Mall. .
             With each highly publicized fatal accident caused by an elderly driver, calls emerge for a better system for licensing aging motorists. .
             Most are good, responsible drivers. In fact, the fatality rate among motorists 70 and older is lower than for those under the age of 20. .
             Still, as baby boomers age, the number of elderly drivers on the roads will increase dramatically. And failing eyesight, slower reaction times and deteriorating health and flexibility mean that many of them will need to be told to stop driving. .
             In the wake of Kidnie's death, an inquest jury delivered 16 good recommendations on how legislators and law enforcement officers could act to weed out bad drivers among the elderly. .
             Regrettably, the Ontario government has adopted virtually none of the recommendations in the 16 months since they were released. .
             The jury said doctors need better screening tools to identify unsafe drivers.

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