MONTREAL — The potential danger of aging seniors behind the wheel is being highlighted after a 90-year-old driver struck and killed a Montreal woman and left her young son in critical condition over the weekend.
Police said a 44-year-old mother was walking in a shopping centre parking lot Sunday with her five-year-old son when they were struck by a car.
Spokeswoman Caroline Chevrefils said during an interview Monday that the driver was met by investigators at the scene and "was a little bit confused and a little bit in a state of shock."
The woman was transported to hospital where she died of her injuries and the boy's father was at his side at the hospital on Monday.
A person close to the family described the father as a popular Montreal-born Lebanese singer who is "well-loved," and added he also has a daughter.
Statistics complied by Quebec's automobile insurance bureau (SAAQ) suggest an overall increase in the number of older drivers over a five-year period due to an aging population.
The number of drivers holding a valid permit aged 90 and older has almost doubled — from 4,405 in 2011, to 8,434 in 2016.
For drivers 85 and over, the numbers also jumped from about 31,000 in 2011 to 49,000 in 2016.
Gino Desrosiers, a SAAQ spokesman, said each year, between 4,000 and 5,000 people over the age of 75 decide by themselves to stop driving "because they don't feel they can do it safely."
Desrosiers stressed that older drivers are required to undergo medical exams in order to renew their five-year permit.
"At the age of 75, drivers undergo a regular visual exam and a medical exam by their doctor," he said. "Then at 80, (it's) every two years and that's submitted to our medical team to be analyzed to see if the person has the physical and cognitive competence to drive a vehicle."
A Quebec coroner in 2017 urged the insurance bureau to be more vigilant about older drivers following the death of a 90-year-old Montreal man in a head-on highway collision that also killed another driver.
Coroner Stephanie Gamache's report said Arthur Theriault was driving in the wrong direction on a major highway.
A 2013 medical exam indicated the driver had heart problems and limited physical mobility. While Gamache said it was impossible to say for certain why Theriault was driving the wrong way, she suggested his health was an element that could have presented a driving risk.
A Canada Safety Council spokesman said it could be tough to convince seniors who may have been driving since the age of 16 to give it up.
"Driving comes with a sense of accomplishment, a sense of freedom, a sense of personal lack of inhibition of movement," Lewis Smith said in an interview from Ottawa.
He urged family members, however, to have a conversation with aging drivers.
"Just because you can drive legally, doesn't mean you should drive from a practical standpoint," Smith said. "So a lot of the onus does need to be on the driver and the family to make sure that the driver is both certified to drive (and) also able to drive."