Ontario’s traffic and driver’s licence laws are among the most complex and comprehensive in North America. These laws are designed to keep our roads safe, but they can make driving difficult to navigate for some residents of the province. Let’s take a look at the logistics of maintaining a driver’s licence for older citizens of 80 years of age or more.
Can I Drive After Age 80?
There is no law that outright prohibits drivers over the age of 80 from operating motor vehicles on public roads in Ontario. However, the province does require regular licence renewals every 2 years after a licenced adult driver turns 80 years old. This means that if you do not go through the renewal process, your licence will be deactivated. Driving without a licence or driving on a suspended licence can carry some serious penalties in Ontario, so it is best to not ignore the over-80 licence renewal process unless you have a plan in place that will not require you to drive after your 80th birthday.
The licence renewal process is formal and follows a set structure for all Ontario residents over age 80. As an older driver, you can keep driving a motor vehicle with a valid, legal licence as long as you participate in the process and pass the required evaluations.
What to Expect Before and After Your 80th Birthday
The driver licence renewal process should begin shortly before your 80th birthday. The Ministry of Transportation (MOT) should mail you a letter informing you that you need to renew your licence and telling you what to do. The letter should come with a form that you’ll need to fill out as well. If you don’t receive either or both of these things before your 80th birthday, contact the MOT to get some help.
Once you have your letter and your form, you’ll need to attend a driver licence renewal session at the date and time specified on your renewal letter. You only have one opportunity to reschedule this appointment, which should take about an hour and a half to complete. When you attend this session, bring everything the MOT recommends, including any vision and hearing assistance devices you use while driving, including prescription eyeglasses and hearing aids.
Unlike with regular drivers, the renewal session for licence holders includes a one-on-one vision assessment and driving record review. You’ll also need to attend a 45-minute group education class with other elderly drivers who are renewing their licence. This class includes a review of traffic laws and ends with a written evaluation that should take only 10 minutes to complete. The evaluation doesn’t test your knowledge of traffic laws. Instead, it is designed to determine how healthy your vision is through vision screening and how quickly you can think. You don’t need to study for the test because there’s nothing to memorise, but it can be helpful to take a practice test to become familiar with what the written evaluation entails.
There is a chance that you’ll need to take a driving test while you’re at the renewal session. That’s only necessary in certain cases, though. Even as an elderly person, if your driving record looks good, your vision test goes well, and you pass the evaluation test, you will likely simply get to visit a Service Ontario Centre to complete your renewal and continue driving with a valid licence.
If anything is of concern with your renewal evaluations, an on-site driver improvement counsellor will discuss this with you privately. Potential issues include the need to go to your doctor’s office for further vision tests or submit medical information to confirm that you do not have any healthcare issues that could impair your ability to drive safely.
This renewal process is required every two years for drivers 80 years and older in Ontario. That means you’ll need to go back at 82, 84 and so on after your initial senior citizen renewal at age 80.
How to Maintain Your Right to Drive
The best way to maintain your right to drive over age 80 is to prepare for your renewal tests before you attend. Have your vision tested and get new eyeglasses prescriptions filled before your licence renewal appointment. Bring those glasses with you to the test. Hearing tests and hearing aid adjustments are also a good idea. Do anything you can do to anticipate potential issues and take care of those problems before your appointment.
You should also read through official booklets that cover group education information and the in-class screening test. This information is available online through the Ontario Ministry of Transportation website, so you can review it ahead of your group education and evaluation attendance. Studying all available information may help seniors feel calmer about the renewal process. Anxiety over the prospect of losing one’s right to drive can lead to confusion and frustration that may cause the test taker to perform more poorly than the level of their actual ability. Knowing what you’re in for and feeling confident that you can handle it will make the process easier.
If you do not pass the evaluation and are not allowed to renew your licence even after health checks from your doctor and reevaluation, this can be difficult to deal with. There may be some cases in which there is some legal recourse but, in general, these tests are conducted fairly. The provincial government requires licence renewal after age 80 due to genuine and legitimate concern over issues with vision, hearing, and speed of cognitive processing.
Driving can be quite dangerous and, if you can’t hear and see well or respond quickly enough in the driver’s seat, you could pose a danger both to yourself and others. This can be hard to accept, but community resources are available throughout Ontario for senior citizens who can no longer drive. From reduced public transit fares to volunteer driving services, there are many different affordable and safe ways for senior citizens who fail the licence renewal test to maintain their mobility and independence.