Do you remember the excitement of getting your G1/G2/Full G license?
Perhaps your parents or grandparents didn’t have to go through the rigorous graduated licensing process that is in place today in Ontario. Regardless of how we obtained our driver’s license, many of us are dependent on driving as our main form of transportation. This is especially true in Northern Ontario. Sometimes, we forget that driving isn’t a right. It’s a privilege that some take for granted. At this time in Ontario, there aren’t any formalized or regular checks to assess our ability to drive safely until we are 80 years old. This is unless a change in health status occurs. For example, a change in medical condition or a change in vision.
The Ministry of Ontario does require that once individuals turn 80 years old that they go through a formal test. This is the Senior Driver’s License Renewal Program. In addition, they must go to a DriveTest every two years to:
- Take a vision test
- Undergo a driver record review
- Participate in a 45-minute Group Education Session (GES)
- During the GES, complete two, brief, non-computerized in-class screening assignments
- If necessary, take a road test (Ministry of Transportation, 2017; Learn more at http://www.mto.gov.on.ca/english/driver/senior-driver-licence-renewal-program.shtml)
How can my health affect driving?
Furthermore, when someone receives a new medical diagnosis or experiences a change in their health (medical condition or vision), it can raise concerns about their ability to drive safely. Also, it may affect their independence in daily life. Examples of health changes are: having a stroke, physical injury (ex. amputation), worsening of a progressive disease (ex. Multiple Sclerosis), vision changes (ex. central or peripheral vision deficits), or cognition/thinking changes.
What Happens when my health is a risk to driving safely?
When this happens, typically, the person will be advised by their doctor to stop driving until they complete a functional driving assessment by an Occupational Therapist and Certified Driving Instructor. If they demonstrate safe driving, they may be able to return to driving with or without lessons, pending MTO’s final decision based on the recommendations. If they do not demonstrate safe driving, it will be recommended that they stop driving. This can be devastating news to receive and most people haven’t planned for this outcome. This is felt as a great loss—often, people feel as if their personal world has stopped and feel that their independence has been taken away. This is understandable, but when personal safety and the safety of others are at risk; it is, unfortunately, the only outcome.
There are alternatives to driving!
Perhaps it isn’t the same, but there are still ways of continuing to do the things that you want to do, need to do, and are expected to do through other forms of transportation! These can include accessing public transportation, carpooling, asking family and friends for assistance, using volunteer driving programs and taxies.
Community Transportation Planning
Moreover, occupational therapists help with providing support. They help with processing the loss of driving, maintaining independence, and planning to help with transitioning to other ways to get around the community. This can include public transportation training, assistance with applying for community transportation programs, facilitating conversations with friends and family around providing transportation assistance, and supporting someone to arrange appointments/social events and transportation needs moving forward. Currently, in Sudbury, this transition planning service is not offered elsewhere, but we know that there is a definite need for it! Do you think that you (or a family member or friend) would benefit from community transportation planning support?