No winners, but some losers

If there were an easy solution to determining who is medically safe and unsafe behind the wheel, jurisdictions all over the world would be using it, said Harmon, the PhD student from the University of Michigan.

Science is working on it and academics are getting close, she said, but there are no answers yet.

“No one is right and no one is wrong, but definitely some people are losing in this,” she said.

Compared to many other systems in the country, Nova Scotia’s is falling behind. The province’s population is already one of the oldest in the country and will continue to be, according to population projections. Without the proper safeguards in place and resources available, older drivers will not get the support they need, endangering themselves and others on the road.

Nova Scotia’s Minister of Transportation and Infrastructure Renewal, Geoff MacLellan, said the province is constantly in talks with colleagues from other provinces about new ideas, but is satisfied with the system the way it is. There is no current plan to change it, he said, but the province is always open to discussion.

At the rate Nova Scotia’s population is aging, it’s not only a public safety issue that can’t be ignored, but it’s also about the safety of the province’s seniors.

Nova Scotia is in a position to be a leader with a creative solution.

The consequences of not hanging up the keys at the right time can sometimes mean the difference between life and death, said Harmon.

Bill Hunter eventually had his license taken away by a substitute doctor – the timing just happened to work out, said Stephanie.

“It was all very difficult and stressful,” she said. She’d like to see some form of mandatory screening, like she’s heard about from her friends in other provinces facing the same issue.

Initially, Bill said it was a “dirty trick” the doctor did, taking away his license like that. He really missed his car.

But, not long after, Stephanie found help in private home care, which Bill’s veteran’s package helps pay for, otherwise, they wouldn’t be able to afford it.

Both Stephanie and her parents couldn’t be happier with the situation now, she said. The home care workers take her parents wherever they need to go – they will even take Bill out just for a drive.

“He thought that was great,” she said. “He didn’t miss the car at all.”

And for Stephanie, it means that her stomach doesn’t drop every time the phone rings, waiting for the news he’d killed himself or someone else.

Since hanging up the keys, Bill’s dementia symptoms kept getting worse. They recently levelled off, said Stephanie, but “if you asked him, he’d still tell you he could drive.”

 

The reporting, photos/videos, infographics and web design was done by Terra Ciolfe as part of the Masters of Journalism program at the University of King’s College in Halifax. 

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