Frequently Asked Questions

Q. What is a Medically At-Risk Driver?
Q. What makes Medically At-Risk Drivers such an important issue?
Q. What is the Medically At-Risk Driver (MARD) Centre?
Q. What outcomes can Albertans expect as a result of the research activities within the Medically At-Risk Driver (MARD) Centre?
Q. Who is involved in the Medically At-Risk Driver Centre?
Q. What will the researchers in the Centre do?
Q. Who will benefit from the Medically At-Risk Driver Centre?
Q. Will the Medically At-Risk Driver Centre be involved in licensing decisions?
Q. Why does Alberta need a Medically At-Risk Driver Centre?
Q. Which illnesses may impede the ability to drive?
Q. Where is the Medically At-Risk Driver Centre located

For information on the SIMARD MD screening tool, see the SIMARD MD Background and Frequently Asked Questions pages.

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Q. What is a Medically At-Risk Driver?

Answer:

A medically at-risk driver is a person who, regardless of age, has a medical condition or conditions that could affect driving performance, but further assessment or testing is needed to determine whether their medical condition(s) have made them unsafe to drive (e.g., some drivers with diabetes are safe to drive, others are not).

Q. What makes Medically At-Risk Drivers such an important issue?

Answer:

There currently are a number of factors making medically at-risk drivers and management of the associated issues critically important in Alberta:

Safety - Safety for not only the medically at-risk driver but for all drivers can be severely compromised if policies and practices are not able to appropriately address safety and mobility associated with this increasing public health problem.

Costs - Costs associated with motor vehicle crashes are continuing to increase but crashes due to medically impaired drivers can be prevented with effective identification, evaluation, and support.

Age-based Policies and Practices - Traditionally, policies and practices affecting driver licensing have been based on age alone. Medical professionals lack the evaluation tools, resources, and support programs for those who are no longer able to drive, to appropriately address this growing issue.

Increasing risk of medical conditions - With Alberta’s population growth, the aging of the baby boomers and with Albertans driving longer into their lifetime, the probability of medically at-risk drivers on our roadways increases. In addition, many of the chronic diseases traditionally associated with age are becoming health risks in younger populations.

Social implications of loss of mobility in the community - As the number of medically at-risk drivers increase and illnesses impact drivers at increasingly younger ages, proactive planning for the safety and support for these drivers and their families will become increasingly critical. Research informing on policies and programs that can facilitate mobility and support to drivers and families when driving is no longer an option will be an important component of the Medically At-Risk Driver Centre’s strategic research agenda.

Q. What is the Medically At-Risk Driver (MARD) Centre?

Answer:

The Medically At-Risk Driver Centre is a University of Alberta-based centre with world-class standing using innovative research and stakeholder collaboration that is committed to:

  • Enhancing the safety and mobility for medically at-risk drivers and for all road users;
  • Reducing the social and health impacts and economic costs associated with medically impaired drivers for the benefit of all Albertans; and,
  • Improving the quality of life and safety for medically at-risk drivers and for all Albertans.

To ensure these commitments are met, the Medically At-Risk Driver Centre will focus on:

  • The development of new and innovative tools and protocols;
  • The implementation of research into evidence-based policy and practice and service delivery; and,
  • Ongoing evaluation of tools, remediation efforts, and support for medically at-risk drivers using an integrated, collaborative approach with public and private stakeholders.

Q. What outcomes can Albertans expect as a result of the research activities within the Medically At-Risk Driver (MARD) Centre?

Answer:

Research and related activities within the Medically At-Risk Driver Centre will result in the expansion of existing tools and techniques and the development of new solutions in four critical areas:

  1. Improved identification tools for medically at-risk drivers;
  2. Objective, science based assessment of medically at-risk drivers to determine those who are medically impaired and unsafe to drive;
  3. Remediation, where appropriate, that contributes to continued safe driving for as long as safely possible; and
  4. Promotion and provision of support for medically impaired drivers and their families to assist with the ‘driving to non-driving’ transition.

Q. Who is involved in the Medically At-Risk Driver Centre?

Answer:

The Centre is a partnership driven initiative between the University of Alberta, and numerous other private and public community stakeholders, such as health professionals, community-based organizations and agencies, and not-for-profit organizations. The Medically At-Risk Driver Centre will partner with various stakeholders and will attract more leading researchers to this area.

Dr. Bonnie Dobbs, a leading researcher/author and University professor, is an established world expert in this subject area. She will serve as the founding Director for the Centre. She will work with an expertly trained staff, and an Advisory Committee comprised of representatives from the University of Alberta, the Government of Alberta, private industry, and other public sector and community groups.

Q. What will the researchers in the Centre do?

Answer:

Researchers in the Centre will be focused on:

  • developing new tools that can be used by various stakeholders (e.g., physicians, law enforcement) to identify medically at-risk drivers;
  • translating the research into evidence-based policies and practices that positively impact the traffic safety and quality of life for Albertans;
  • providing ongoing evaluation of needs, gaps, and issues related to medically at-risk driving;
  • contributing to policy, procedure, and service delivery focusing on safety and mobility for all Albertans regardless of age, through innovative private/public sector partnerships, including those with the Government of Alberta.

Q. Who will benefit from the Medically At-Risk Driver Centre?

Answer:

The research, support programs and education conducted through the MARD Centre will benefit all Albertans including:

  • Medically at-risk Alberta drivers, regardless of age or medical condition. The Centre’s activities are not restricted to age or to a specific illness;
  • Families of drivers who are medically at-risk;
  • Medical professionals, especially family physicians, who are seeking scientific, objective-based tools to assist them when making medical decisions impacting driving;
  • Albertans in both urban and rural areas. The Centre’s activities are not restricted to a location;
  • Albertans using our roads and transportation networks. Identifying, assessing, and supporting those at-risk enhances the safety of all Albertans;
  • Policy makers in Alberta and across various jurisdictions. The MARD Centre will facilitate greater collaboration among stakeholders including initiatives within the Government of Alberta, the University of Alberta, industry and not-for-profit organizations to ensure that the policies and procedures for Alberta’s medically at-risk drivers are valid.

Q. Will the Medically At-Risk Driver Centre be involved in licensing decisions?

Answer:

No. The Medically At-Risk Driver Centre will not be a licensing entity, nor will it be involved in licensing decisions. The purpose of the Medically At-Risk Driver Centre is to conduct research and provide proactive, evidence-based solutions to address safety and mobility issues for those drivers living with diseases that can affect driving.

The Medically At-Risk Driver Centre is committed to providing both the appropriate research and the translation of that knowledge to ensure that medically at-risk drivers in Alberta are driving as long and as safely as possible. Medical assessments of drivers will not be conducted at the Centre.

Q. Why does Alberta need a Medically At-Risk Driver Centre?

Answer:

The Medically At-Risk Driver Centre in Alberta will:

  • Integrate and optimize current efforts. Although there are agencies and organizations in Alberta, advocating for mobility and traffic safety, what is needed is a vehicle for the discovery of innovative tools, processes, and approaches. The Medically At-Risk Driver Centre provides Albertans with an integrating structure that utilizes a collaborative approach to ensure that research, outcomes, and practices associated with medically at-risk drivers are discovered and available for implementation.
  • Proactively address Alberta traffic safety and mobility issues. Current population trends indicate that Alberta’s population growth, coupled with the aging of the baby boomers, means that more people with illness that affect driving will be driving on Alberta roads, longer into life, making traffic safety and mobility for those unable to drive key issues to be addressed.
  • Benefit from leading world subject experts who are providing made-in-Alberta solutions. The best expertise available to operate this Centre already is located in Edmonton and dedicated to the issue of medically at-risk drivers. Key personnel at the Centre and some of the key stakeholders are world-known experts in this field. They have the ability to make a difference in the quality of life for Albertans, but require the integrating structure and focus that the Medically At-Risk Driver Centre brings.
  • Address the social implications associated with loss of driving privileges. The loss of driving privileges due to a medical condition often is the first of many losses. The Medically At-Risk Driver Centre will not focus solely on generation of new knowledge through its research activities but will be the catalyst for the implementation of new and innovative solutions to support individuals and their families when driving is no longer an option.

Q. Which illnesses may impede the ability to drive?

Answer:

Current research indicates that many illnesses and medications can have a negative impact on driving ability. For example, the risk of a crash in which the driver was determined to be at-fault can be 2 to 3.5 times higher for drivers with a high risk medical condition than those drivers who are considered healthy. Some of the high risk conditions that can affect driving ability include:

  • Chronic kidney failure
  • Dementia such as Alzheimer's disease, vascular dementia
  • Depression
  • Diabetes
  • Epilepsy
  • Heart failure
  • Lung Diseases
  • Neurological disorders such as head injury, Parkinson's Disease, Multiple Sclerosis
  • Vision impairments such as cataracts, glaucoma, macular degeneration 
  • Sleep disorders such as sleep apnea
  • Stroke

Many, but not all, of these high risk conditions are age associated. However, simply having an illness or medical condition, just like being of a certain age, does not mean you are an unsafe driver.

The research and activities of the Medically At-Risk Driver Centre will be focused on evidence-based outcomes and education that allows policy and program decisions to be based on the effects of the illness on one’s functional ability (e.g., sensory, motor, or cognitive functioning) rather than on age or the presence of an illness.

This world-class Centre is committed to improving the safety and mobility for Albertans. It is not a Centre that is targeting the removal of elderly drivers or drivers based on diagnostic category (e.g., diabetes) from our roadways.

Q. Where is the Medically At-Risk Driver Centre located?

Answer:

The MARD Centre is located on the University of Alberta campus in the Department of Family Medicine within the Faculty of Medicine and Dentistry.

This Centre is the first of its kind in the world. The partnership between the Government of Alberta, the University of Alberta, the Insurance Bureau of Canada, and other public and private stakeholders on this initiative places Alberta in an enviable position as a leader in the development of solutions to a growing health, transportation, and community challenge.