Young drivers steering in safer direction, according to new report

By Nigel Maxwell
January 16, 2019 - 5:00pm

While still posing the greatest risk on the roads, youth are involved in fewer crashes, according to the latest numbers from Saskatchewan Government Insurance (SGI).

In 2017, there were 936 collisions involving 16-year-olds, compared to 1,323 in 2008 and 1,198 in 2012. Tyler McMurchy, a spokesperson for SGI, told paNOW  there is always room to do better.

"We always want to see zero crashes, zero fatalities, zero injuries on the roads, so this is something we do pay attention to," he said.

Driver inattention (152) was the leading cause behind collisions involving 16-year-olds, followed by driver inexperience (116) and driver distraction (44). The provincial government has introduced a number of measures to address crashes involving young drivers. McMurchy said the graduated licensing program is one example of a successful program that has helped young drivers gain experience on the roads. Novice drivers must progress through several levels, before earning their full license. Restrictions include but are not limited to the times of day they can travel and how many passengers they can have in their vehicle.

"Those are one of the ways you expose new drivers to increasingly challenging situations. We also encourage young drivers to get a lot of practice leading up to their road test and afterwards," McMurchy said.

The age group responsible for the most amount of crashes in 2017 was 25 to 34-year-olds, which contributed 8,876. On the other end of the spectrum was drivers aged 65 and over which had 3,781. According to data collected by SGI, there has been an increase in the number of senior drivers involved in crashes over the past 10 years, starting with 2,744 in 2008 and moving up to 3,326 in 2012. McMurchy said overall seniors have proven to be quite good at identifying their own abilities behind the wheel. 

"SGI does have a medical review unit that works to make sure that all drivers have the medical fitness and skills needed to drive a vehicle safely and we are notified by medical professionals if they identify a situation in which they think someone should not be allowed to drive," he said.

Despite the increase in crash occurrences, seniors still pose the lowest risk, according to the SGI report. Nicole Rancourt is the NDP's SGI critic. She said she has not heard any talk from within the NDP caucus regarding a need for licensing changes for youth or seniors.

"I am really confident that SGI does have the processes in place to make sure that they are ensuring safety on the roads," she said, adding if anyone has any concerns about any particular drivers they should report that information to SGI.

Linda Anderson, the ageism and media projects coordinator for Saskatchewan Seniors Mechanism, told paNOWthe number of older drivers on the road needs to be considered before drawing any conclusions. According to data collected by SGI, 147,732 drivers in the province in 2017 identified as being 65-years-or-older, compared to 137, 248 in 2015.

"One of the facts in Saskatchewan is that the percentage of older adults is increasing year by year, so you are going to have more accidents [involving seniors] it’s only logical," she said.

Anderson was asked if she thought seniors were unfairly stereotyped as bad drivers.

"I think that because there’s always a grain of truth in every stereotype that older adults need to be aware as we age of when our ability to drive becomes hampered by illness or aging," she said.

The 2017 report was released earlier this year. The numbers for 2018 were not yet calculated.

On Twitter: @nigelmaxwell

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