Participants needed for vital research study

Toronto (May 11, 2009) - As Canada's population ages, the number of older people who hold a driver's license is growing steadily. Most are perfectly good drivers — but some are not. The Toronto Rehabilitation Institute (Toronto Rehab) is involved in an unprecedented study of older drivers that will help determine ability to drive.

The new study by the Canadian Driving Research Initiative for Vehicular Safety in the Elderly (Candrive) will follow 1,000 older adults for five years with the goal of identifying key factors that affect the ability to drive safely. It will also aid in the development of a simple, objective test that family doctors can use to identify older drivers who are safe and unsafe to drive.

Statistics show that both new drivers and elderly drivers are most at-risk for motor–vehicle crashes per kilometre driven, with an almost exponential increase after the age of 75. Yet other studies show that some of the safest drivers are senior drivers.

"The issue is not age, but disease and functional disabilities that often come with age," says Toronto Rehab geriatrician and scientist Dr. Gary Naglie, one of the study investigators. "We need to have a better understanding of disease and medications that impair older people's ability to drive, and the impact of many other factors associated with driving competency."

One of the main objectives of the study is to keep safe older drivers behind the wheel longer, says Dr. Naglie. Currently, many family doctors report that they do not feel confident in their ability to evaluate patients' fitness to drive. Because of lack of confidence, some seniors elect to stop driving prematurely — even though they are still safe to continue, even if under certain conditions, for example during the day.

To conduct this research, investigators need the help of drivers who are 70 and older. The study is taking place in seven Canadian cities, including Toronto, where it is headquartered at Toronto Rehab and led by Dr. Naglie along with Dr. Mark Rapoport of Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre. The two scientists are members of Candrive, an interdisciplinary health–related research program which aims to improve the health, safety and quality of life of Canada's older drivers. Candrive is funded by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research.

For information about how to participate in the driving study, please call Novlette Fraser at 416 597 3422, ext. 7851. Participants must be 70 or older and drive at least four times a week.

If you live outside the Toronto area, please call the Candrive Research Office toll-free at 1 866 233 1133.

About Toronto Rehab

Toronto Rehab is at the forefront of one of the most important and emerging frontiers in health care today — rehabilitation science. As a fully affiliated teaching and research hospital of the University of Toronto, Toronto Rehab is Canada's largest academic provider of adult rehabilitation services, complex continuing care and long–term care. Toronto Rehab is advancing rehabilitation knowledge and practice through research and education.

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