Toronto, Ontario — In an annual report from Nick Stavropoulos, Ontario’s acting auditor general, concerns were raised about the quality of testing for drivers over 80.
Specifically, Stavropoulos has raised concerns that elderly drivers are not tested under a full range of necessary skills needed to continue to be safe on the road.
Currently, Ontario drivers have to renew their license every two years after they turn 80, and that renewal process involves attending a senior driving education session, which further requires a vision test and having to draw a clock to measure cognitive abilities.
“The test does not examine motor function and coordination, concentration, hearing abilities, and special perception and reaction time,” Stavropoulos wrote.
The Ministry of Transportation did research in 2020 that showed that more than one-third of drivers older than 80 who passed the clock-drawing test could not pass a road test.
“The research also recommended the introduction of an enhanced road test for elderly drivers, which could combine the driving manoeuvres of a standard highway test with additional scoring to test cognitive abilities related to safe driving,” the auditor wrote.
Stavropoulos is also recommending that drivers over 80 also undergo medical assessments as is done in provinces such as British Columbia, Alberta, Quebec and Newfoundland and Labrador.
The auditor’s office did its own analysis and found that drivers 80 and older who passed the clock-drawing test had a lower collision rate than the general driving population. However, when they were involved in collisions, they were “significantly” more likely to have caused them.
Some individuals, such as Bill VanGorder, chief advocacy and education officer with the Canadian Association of Retired Persons, have raised concerns over the potential loss of independence—especially for elderly drivers living in rural areas—that could come from taking their licenses due to stricter testing.
VanGorder commented that drivers should be re-tested throughout their life but stringent testing shouldn’t be pinned on a specific age.
This concern is especially apparent in comparison to the fact that the ministry already does not require dangerous drivers of younger ages to complete a remedial program following an infraction.
In Stavropoulos’s report, more than 2,500 drivers received two or more suspensions for offences such as dangerous driving or stunt driving, but the ministry only required 120 of them (or five percent) to complete courses on driving.
The Ministry of Transportation said in its response to Stavropoulos’s report that it is doing a review looking at “effective countermeasures against high-risk driving, including driver retraining.”
The ministry is considering more thorough testing starting in 2026 for both drivers over 80 years of age and dangerous drivers of all ages.