(For Canadians outside of Ontario, check with our partners at CAA for details on testing older drivers in your province.)
Many CARP Members in Ontario have reached out to us with concerns about the mandatory licence renewal process that starts when drivers reach age 80 and repeats every two years thereafter.
The test is designed to offer an information refresher for older drivers, and to screen for signs of cognitive impairment (early signs of dementia, memory loss and executive function) that could affect our ability to drive safely.
Watch the video below to learn more about the renewal process.
Full details on the MTO website here
Older drivers should not be overly concerned about the testing that goes along with the renewal. If you were a safe driver at age 79, it is highly unlikely that your abilities have changed just because you had a birthday. But, you should prepare to ensure you have the best possible outcome on the test.
Drivers are recommended to read the up to date, Driver’s Handbook, which is a good idea at any age. (Link to Handbook)
After watching a video that outlines tips and information for older drivers, there is a short written test to measure basic cognitive function.
Forewarned is Forearmed
Knowing what to expect in the renewal is the best way to combat any nerves, particularly regarding the written cognitive test.
Many CARP members over age 80, or otherwise, don’t have occasion to do much writing with pen and paper these days, so it’s a good idea to practice using a pencil again and brushing up your penmanship, so that you can jump “write” in at test time.
There are two main portions of the written cognitive test… one involves drawing a clock face and putting hands on the clock to match a specified time on the test. The other is a test of focus where you have to cross out all of the instances of a specific letter (ie H) in a series of random letters. (example below)
Practice Makes Perfect
Just like you studied and practiced for your driving test decades earlier, there is good reason to practice these skills to help you succeed in the test.
Pick up a flyer, or a newspaper and start to cross out all the H’s or F’s in a few paragraphs. Do this every day in the weeks leading up to your test.
Get out your paper and pencil and practice your clock drawing skills.
And be sure to put those hands on the clock in the correct place.
We naturally want to start counting at ONE, but remember that the clock starts with a 12 at the top, when you are adding the numbers to the clock face.
There’s a little trickery to the question in some instances, testing that you are paying close attention (as you do when you drive… ).
You may be asked to draw the hands at “10 minutes after 11”
After having just drawn those numbers on the clock face, some test subjects will quickly put the minute hand on the 10 (which would put the time at 10 minutes to the hour) rather than on the 2, which indicates 10 minutes after the hour.
So take some time to practice and use the format, x minutes before Y or x minutes after Y… rather than 10:15 or 11:45
The Ministry of Transportation has information webinars that can help you prepare for the renewal. Click here to see the 2023 schedule for more details.
Here’s what to expect at your renewal session.
You will likely be in a small group of other drivers over age 80.
A test of your vision (with your glasses if necessary) looking into a light box with various size characters (make sure your eyeglasses prescription is up to date and you have your glasses with you) Also, if you have hearing aids, be sure to wear them to the testing.
Then there’s a video presentation that updates information, (like roundabouts) and specifics as they relate to driving and the aging process.
Finally, there’s the written test, looking for signs of cognitive decline.
You will be shown a clock face with a time indicated, which is then taken down. You have five minutes to draw a circle, put in the clock numbers, and have the hands indicate the time.
Following that, you’ll be given a sheet containing a block of letters. You have five minutes to cross out all the Hs.
That’s all there is to it.
However, if you do experience difficulty in these tasks, it might be a good idea to speak with your doctor and further explore your cognitive health prior to taking the test. Medications or other health issues could negatively affect cognitive function. If your performance on the cognitive test raises a flag with the Ministry of Transportation, you will get a letter from the Ministry, indicating a suspension of your driver’s licence and directions for follow up, which could include further testing and medical clearance.
Duration: 5 Minutes
1. On a separate sheet of paper, draw a large circle.
2. Put all the numbers in to make it look like the face of a clock.
3. Draw the hands of the clock to show ten minutes after eleven.
4. Stop when completed.
Duration: 5 Minutes
1. Look at the letters below.
2. Whenever you see an “H”, cross it out.
3. Stop when completed.
B D A H C F B H D E H D A F H I C H F H
D H C E H I H G D H G E B H E G H I H C
C G D H C B A H G D E H C H B E H D G H
CARP continues to advocate for road safety for drivers of all ages and the freedom from age discrimination related to our driving privileges. If you’re not already a CARP member, please join us today and support our work. www.carp.ca/join