June 27th, 2014: Since CARP has received many inquiries on this subject, it would seem that there remains much confusion and uncertainty around Ontario’s new Senior Driver Renewal Program. At 86, CARP Advocacy Carol Libman has had first-hand experience with both the old and the new system. Last week she was set to renew her licence and we seized the opportunity to produce a “report from the field” on her experience with the new system. Here is Carol’s account of her experience in which she concludes that the new program is an improvement:
In most parts of the world, drivers and their doctors are required to report medical conditions which can negatively affect the ability to drive. Some set specific ages at which an additional process takes place.
In Ontario, the Senior Licence Renewal Program starts at age 80. This month, with 86 notches on my belt, I was required to take the latest revamp of the Ministry of Transportation’s Senior Drivers Educational Session, to ensure that I – and the 14 others I joined – were still capable of driving safely. In previous years, we had assiduously studied the Rules of the Road’ booklet, in advance. That particular test has been discarded, although there was a brief review of the contents.
So, while it is useful for licencing bodies to determine ability to drive, controversy still rages with regard to the validity of choosing age 80. Nevertheless, having taken part in both sessions, the latest version is an improvement. The experience turned out to be unstressful. The trainer was helpful and courteous, and the presentation included a useful review of road hazards and techniques which promote safety on the road.
First came the brief peripheral vision test, followed by the educational seminar that began with the frightening statistics of how frequently victims of motor vehicle accidents arrive at hospital emergency departments. Then we were told that the process we were experiencing was not designed to deprive us of our licences, but to help us to recognize our strengths and potential problems, and develop techniques to enable us to drive safely longer, such as avoiding bad weather, mapping out the route in advance before venturing into unfamiliar territory, making three right turns in lieu of a left, particularly where there is no designated left turn lane, etc.
Chief among the strengths of older drivers are experience, sense of responsibility and ability to adapt. Recognizing that people age at different rates, we were reminded about the importance of concentration – driving is a full-time job; and being aware of side effects of medications. We were also advised to keep a list of medications with us, as well as contact names and phone numbers – a good idea for anyone of any age.
Last was the two-part cognitive test, each to be completed in five minutes. The first requirement was to draw the face of a clock, showing the time at ten minutes past eleven. (Youngsters trained on digital clocks might have trouble with that one!). Everyone put their pencils down long before the five minutes was up. Then we were required to put a line or an X through a designated letter in several lines of letters. Of the 15 participants, the results of two were doubtful, requiring a road test which was set up almost immediately and at no additional cost to the participants.
My neighbor, a charming woman named Margaret Della Rossa who looked ten years younger than her stated age, was taking the test for the fifth time. She, too passed with ease. “The trick,” she agreed, “is to keep active and busy, and alert”.
I look forward to meeting her again on her 90th.
Carol Libman, June 26, 2014
Read CARP’s Open Letter to the Minister of Transportation to update outdated licencing protocols that unfairly targets older drivers
Read about Ontario’s new Senior Drivers Renewal Program