Senior Driver Assessment in Ontario
Senior Drivers of Today
Senior Drivers have come under scrutiny these last few weeks in the local papers and newscasts because of a number of incidents that have occurred when they have been behind the wheel. I personally witnessed a senior driver back out of a grocery store parking lot, hit two vehicles and drive over a curb. The driver left with no knowledge of the havoc left behind. If it wasn’t for witnesses the driver would have gotten off to do it again. Maybe, the next time it would not have been a vehicle but a person this driver would have injured.
Today a senior driver can keep their licence to drive, past the age of eighty, as long as they can pass a written and vision test every two years. The Ministry of Transportation runs a Driver Refresher Course lasting about 2 hours prior to the written exam. It covers the basic rules of the road, and how a senior driver can compensate for changes in reflexes and eyesight.
Many seniors pass this written test with flying colours however, some of them show signs of poor cognitive skills when it comes to certain tasks behind the wheel. Many seniors consider themselves good drivers because they have been driving for over fifty years without incident. With age comes physical and mental changes.
Certain prescriptions can affect motor skills, especially if they are mixed with other drugs. A medical doctor is under obligation to notify the Ministry of Transportation if they have a patient that is a threat to themselves and the public. Some seniors get upset when they learn that their licence has been suspended, and that they now have to take a battery of tests by specialists and evaluators etc. to try to regain that licence and their independence.
It is important to remember that driving is not a right of passage, but a privilege and each driver needs to understand the implications of what is at stake. As it stands now,
any driver over the age of 72 who accumulates points for any infraction of the Ontario Highway Traffic Act, or is involved in an “At Fault” collision, will have to under go a driving test – free of charge. A senior driver can attempt this test countless times, but after the first failure their licence is reduced to a G1. They have to wait ten days between each test until they accomplish the “G”license.
Currently G1 License Restrictions are:
Must be accompanied by a licensed G Driver in good standing for 4 years
Cannot drive from 12 Midnight to 5:00 am
Cannot drive on any highway with a posted speed limit of 80 or higher
Zero percent blood alcohol concentration
No more passengers than working seatbelts
The Ministry of Transportation is currently considering implementing the time of day and roadway restrictions for seniors, called a “degraded licence”, which is embraced by many other provinces. They have not ruled out mandatory road tests for anyone over the age of 80. Studies are being conducted by the Ontario Government at this time, and the results will be available in the next few years.
Many Seniors recognize their own limitations and have changed when and where they drive, but this has not solved the problem of drivers having limited physical and cognitive abilities.
Annette, who is a senior herself has evaluated countless senior drivers over the years and understands the situation and what is involved. There are many options available at ACCENT ON ADVANCED DRIVER TRAINERS, depending on each situation for the senior driver.
There is a group program for 10 or more, called “55 ALIVE” which includes 5 hours in class instruction which can be taught in one day splitting the time with a lunch hour and breaks, or two mornings or evenings which ever is more convenient. Also included is an evaluation for each participant in their own vehicle. This is an ideal program for senior clubs and groups as it is more economical for each participant. Work books and a power point show make it entertaining and educational, and on completion of this course includes a certificate that some insurance companies would recognize for insurance purposes.
The other option is that an individual senior can make arrangements to come into the office to go over the Ontario Highway Traffic Laws and then make an appointment for an instuctor to take them out in their vehicle and evaluate their driving by putting them through several manoeuvres. This also can be certified.