Ontario Ministry of Transportation Needs to Catch up To Other Canadian Jurisdictions

Ontario is behind the times, at least 8 other Canadian provinces offer restricted licensing that is based on impairment, not age.

CARP recently received a call from a woman, let’s call her Ms. X, who was over 70 and had been involved in a collision. She was told she would have her drivers’ license revoked unless she could pass knowledge, vision and road tests. No surprise there as this particular lady lived in Ontario where the Over 70 Collision Program requires any driver over 70 who gets in an accident to take this test.

Ontario has a system of graduating licensing that allows drivers who are learning to drive to hold G1, G2 or G3 license. A G1 license is essentially a learner’s permit; it enables a person to drive, but only with another person holding a G3 class license. A G2 class license allows you to drive alone but has a few restrictions that do not apply to a class G3 license.

Ms. X was told that if she failed her driving test, she could apply for a G1 license (a leaner’s permit) but could not subsequently, as a younger driver could, apply for a class G2 license.

“But I have to take a highway test, I haven’t driven on the highway in over ten years! I just use my car to get around in my neighborhood during the day to do things like purchase groceries.” She said. What good is a driver’s permit if the person lives alone and depends on their car to purchase groceries or attend doctor’s appointments?

Ms. X is not alone; many seniors find themselves in her position. They are aware of their limitations and drive accordingly. The only problem is that this can prove to be problematic if they have to be re-tested. Many North American jurisdictions already allow people with medical conditions that might adversely affect their driving to hold drivers licenses permitting them to drive only under certain conditions.

The compromise seems fair, but does it promote safety, is restricted licensing effective? Research shows that it is. In a 2002 study published in the Medical Association Journal, Marshall et.al. found that drivers with restricted licenses had lower traffic violation rates than those without restrictions and that at-fault crash rates had decreased by 12.8% after the introduction of restricted licensing. CARP has been promoting the institution of a Conditional Licence for anyone of any age who willingly restricts his or her driving, for example, not on major highways and/or not after dark.

In a 2006 Survey by the Safety Policy and Education Branch of the Ontario Ministry of Transportation, 8 of 13 jurisdictions responded, all indicating they have some form of conditional licensing. In seven of them restrictions are customized to driver’s needs, and this limited license is available at any age. All require a driver assessment, which considers impairments which might affect the ability to drive. Below is a summary of licensing conditions in the Provinces for which we have available data.

In Prince Edward island, under the province’s Restricted Drivers’ license Program, each case is reviewed individually, and restrictions might include daytime driving only, certain roads, maximum speeds.

In Quebec, following a medical examination report, if functional testing indicates a restricted licence, the Société de’Assurance Automobile du Québec (SAAQ) decides the appropriate restriction, taking safety and driver’s mobility needs into consideration. Most restrictions involve distance from home and time of day, as well as class of vehicle. Saskatchewan’s restrictions include time of day, town limits and no highway driving.

It is clear that most – but not all – provincial licensing bodies recognize that not all disabilities are created equal; and that drivers are willing to accept sensible limitations which will keep them both safe and mobile.