The Ontario Ministry of Transportation is changing its senior driver’s licence renewal program for drivers over the age of 80. It was announced on January 28, 2014 that the new program promises to help seniors who are able to drive renew their licences in a less onerous while way while also addressing general road safety concerns.
Starting April 21, 2014, drivers aged 80 and over will no longer have to complete a written knowledge test, according to the Ministry, and will participate in a shorter and simpler renewal program that includes, a vision test, a driver record review, an improved in-class Group Education Session, and two short in-class screening exercises. This announcement disproves the circulating rumor that Ontario was going to implement the SIMARD Test, a costly, intrusive computer-based testing program with little evidence to support claims of effectiveness. The changes reflect many of the concerns CARP raised about the outgoing seniors’ licencing program, which unduly relied on age to determine licencing, rather than experience, driving record, and ability to drive. In an open letter last February and meeting last March, CARP called on the Minister of Transportation to end outdated licencing protocols that unfairly target older drivers and instead implement driver improvement programs and interventions that pro-actively increase safety measures for all drivers. CARP’s message was heard – the new changes provide balanced approach to ensuring the public’s safety and protecting people’s ability to drive.
Currently, the renewal process requires drivers aged 80 years and older every two years to take a vision test, undergo a driver record review, attend a group education session, and take a written knowledge test, and if it is necessary, take a road test. The whole process, prior to the road test, takes approximately three –and-a-half hours to complete. The written knowledge test causes unnecessary stress and anxiety and it is an unfair assessment that does not actually tests people’s ability to drive.
The changes to the program provide a fairer evidence-based approach that tests people’s ability to drive with safeguards and checkpoints to ensure public safety. Under the new changes, the whole process will be shorter, approximately 90 minutes to complete. Instead of the knowledge test, two non-computerized cognitive screening assessments that are commonly used to assess cognitive ability, such as visuo-spatial and psycho-motor ability, will be administered in group settings. Older drivers will no longer be tested for the rules that they already drive by, and sample tests will be made available so older drivers will know what to expect. Therefore, under the new changes, the process will include:
- A vision test
- A driver record review
- A shorter group education session
- Two, brief, non-computerized in-class cognitive screening assessments
- If necessary, a road test or medical exam
Older drivers will still need to go through the process every two years to renew their licence and the cost will remain the same, prorated at two-fifths the costs of a five-year renewal. There will be no additional cost for the process above, and if one fails, the process and/or road tests can be retaken numerous times at no additional cost. However, if one’s licence expires between re-assessments, a temporary G1 driver’s licence with the conditions of a regular G1 licence will be given until the next re-assessment. Once the driver passes the process and/or road exam, the full G2 licence will be reinstated. At no point in the process will older drivers fear the risk of having their licence removed.
For more information about the changes:
Read the Ontario Government’s press release.