15,8% of elderly declared unfit to drive
The Belgian Driving Ability and Vehicle Adaptation Centre (Cara) announces that in 2017, 294 elderly people over sixty-five were declared unfit to drive on the 1.500 tested (15,8%). 8,1% of under 65-year-olds received the same news.
Health problems and bad eyesight are the most common factors. The elderly are also more prone to get hurt or killed in a road accident.
Once a certain age is reached, driving can become an issue. Cara, the Driving Ability and Vehicle Adaptation Centre, offers people to pass a series of tests to see if they are still fit to drive.
This driving ability test can be voluntary or it can be done at the request of a doctor, the family or the insurance. Sometimes, the request can come from the justice.
Between January 1st and December 31st 2007, Cara has received 7.099 dossiers and managed to test 5.538 applicants. In total, 594 people were declared unfit to drive. For under sixty-five-year olds, 300 received the bad news on 3.303 tested (8,1%) while for people aged over 65, 294 of them weren’t able to drive home on the 1.500 tested (15,8%).
With an aging population, the elderly tend to drive as long as possible but the number of unfit drivers is increasing. They were 10,5% in 2016 and 9,1% in 2015. “Elderly are now twice as likely to fail the driving ability test”, declares VIAS spokesperson, Benoît Godart.
‘The decision is never final’
Health is the major issue. Consequences of a stroke are the most common cause of a driving ban, then come eyesight issues and dementia comes in third. Cardiovascular disorder takes fourth place and psychic disorders sit in fifth place.
“The stakes of those tests are high because if the results are negative, it can dramatically change the life of the person. It can even sometimes force people to move”, continues Mr Godart.
Cara’s aim is therefore to find the best compromise between the person’s need to be mobile and his safety. Vehicles can be adapted (in 42,6% of cases) and some restrictions can be applied (in 50,7% of cases) such as a five-kilometre limit or a night-driving ban.
“The decision is never final”, explains Frédérique Van Vossel, expert at Cara, “people can pass the test once again if it is justified. However, if the ban was for medical reasons, there are few chances for it to evolve positively.”
One out of four killed is over 65
“On the road, the elderly are more in danger than they’re dangerous”, explains Benoît Godart, adding that a road accident at that age can have serious consequences. In 2008, fewer than one out of six (16%) people killed on the road were over 65. Today, that rate is up to one out of four (25%).
Over 75, the risk of death per kilometre driven is four times higher than average and it equals the level of young drivers (18-24). On the other hand, the elderly are less likely to hurt others. One third of accidents for drivers aged above 65 is caused by a medical issue and it often only hurts themselves.