The majority of Canadians rely on the ability to drive as an important means of transportation and as a symbol of independence. As Canada’s population ages, safe driving strategies have heightened in importance especially as the leading cause of accidental deaths for persons 65 to 75 years old in Canada today is driving-related accidents. More specifically, individuals over 75 have a 3.5 times higher crash rate compared to those 35 to 44 years of age (Canada Safety Council, 2005).
While age alone does not determine a person’s ability to remain a safe driver, changes in the abilities of older drivers can make some activities more difficult and it is important to recognize how this can affect one’s ability to drive safely.
The Canadian Association of Occupational Therapists has identified driver safety as a priority and invests in the implementation of innovative projects and initiatives with the aim to reduce injury and so that all people may participate to their potential in the day to day activities that are most important to them. To this end, two driving initiatives are currently in place:
CarFit is an educational program that provides a quick, yet comprehensive review of how well a driver and their vehicle work together. The program also provides information and materials on community-specific resources that can enhance driving safety and increase mobility in the community.
CAOT, in partnership with Canadian Automobile Association (CAA), has worked to bring CarFit to Canada. The program was initially developed by American Automobile Association (AAA), AARP and the American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA).
CarFit provides a dedicated stream of professional development opportunity, as a CarFit Technician or Event Coordinator. Occupational therapists who receive this training are encouraged to plan and hold a public CarFit event, to put their training into practice knowing that a proper fit in one’s car can greatly increase not only the driver's safety but also the safety of others.
The National Blueprint for Injury Prevention
Occupational therapists take a leadership position regarding driving rehabilitation services because of their expertise in assessing and intervening on the interaction between the person, the environment and the occupation – in this case the occupation of driving.
The National Blueprint for Injury Prevention in Older Drivers outlines a vision and actions for promoting safe driving among older drivers in Canada. This blueprint is directed towards increasing the capacity of older adults to drive safely for as long as possible and maintain their engagement in the occupations which give meaning and purpose to their lives.
The National Blueprint for Injury Prevention in Drivers with Arthritis has been developed as a guiding document for teams interested in advancing research, training curricula, practices and policies to support drivers with arthritis. This blueprint is directed towards the health and wellness needs of the over 4.6 million Canadians diagnosed with arthritis who want to maintain their occupation of driving.
For more information, please contact CAOT’s Director of Knowledge Translation Programs.