For many older Ontarians, driving and being independently mobile has been a privilege they have enjoyed for decades. However, being a senior driver does come with some changes. As you near your 80th birthday, you will need to renew your driver’s licence. In this article, we detail the steps necessary for a senior driver’s licence renewal, as well include resources you’ll need to be fully prepared on test day.

Why seniors are more prone to accidents

There are a variety of circumstances that make older people more prone to accidents. Age-related health conditions, slower reflexes, and reduction in vision and hearing can all be contributing factors. As such, once you turn 70, it is possible to see your insurance premium rates increase. Many insurers increase premiums for older people because research shows they are more likely to be more seriously hurt in an accident in comparison to others. An increase in premiums covers the increase in threat of a more expensive claim.

Turning 80 and driving

If you still enjoy the freedom of travelling out and about, the Government of Ontario will require you to renew your licence after celebrating your 80th birthday. There are special considerations that you will need to make and specific procedures set up for you to maintain the right to drive. Most provinces require senior drivers to take vision tests and, in some cases, written driving tests every two years after the age of 80. This is done to ensure that seniors can continue to drive safely. In Ontario, older adults past their 80th birthday will receive a letter containing a renewal form and a document outlining the steps they’ll need to take for over 80 driving license renewal.

Please note: You will receive a notification to renew your licence every two years past your 80th birthday.

Receiving your notification for renewal

Generally, you won’t receive a letter to renew your licence until three months before it expires. This should give you plenty of time to make all necessary arrangements for renewal. You will be given an exact date and time for your appointment. If you miss the appointment, you can reschedule, but are allowed to only miss one time. Note that over age 80, a driver’s licence renewal is available for up to six months at most. After this period, the licence will expire and will no longer be valid in Ontario. Therefore, it’s good for you to renew in a timely fashion.

Before attending the renewal session   

Before the session, you will have to watch an educational video about driving and road rules, which should serve as a refresher. You should not skip this important step, as you will undergo a screening exercise during the session that may call upon details within the video. These will not be the equivalent of senior driving test questions – instead, they are usually based upon the contents of the video itself. Also, review the Official Ministry of Transportation Drivers’ Handbook available in print format at various retailers.

To watch the video, please click here.

Steps for a senior driver’s licence renewal

At the Drive Test Centre, you will undergo the below assessments. These assessments during your renewal process typically take about 90 minutes to complete, and need to be complete before your driver’s licence renewal. If your appointment is after the expiry of your driver’s licence, you may request a temporary driver’s permit that will allow you to drive until your driver’s licence renewal is complete.

Step 1: Vision testing

  • A vision screener is used to assess your vision
  • It is important to wear the eyeglasses or contact lenses you use for driving
  • Bring your most current prescription eyeglasses

If you bring a vision report from an eye doctor indicating complete vision test results, no vision screening is necessary at the session. The report must:

  • Have a signature and date within six months of the session
  • Contain a measurement for acuity and peripheral

Please note that some reports will be sent to medical review for further processing.

Step 2: Driver record review

Your overall driving record, which may consist of driving infractions, tickets or suspensions, is reviewed as part of the renewal process. Please note that regardless of age, your records will be consulted prior to the renewal of any drivers licence.

Step 3: Group education session (45 minutes in length)

The group session will involve testing the participant’s vision and performing a cognitive test for seniors. There is no cost to attend a group education session. The group will be run by a trained driving counsellor in a quiet setting. Materials include non-computer assessment materials. The in-class assessment includes two short screening assignments during the class:

  • You will have five minutes to finish a brief, non-computer assessment
  • The assessment is not dependent on language and cannot be taken orally
    • The screening exercise consists of an in-class assessment relevant to driving
    • A clock drawing exercise which measures a driver’s capacity to recognize and organize information

After the first three steps are complete, you may have to complete a road test and/or provide medical information from your doctor.

Step 4: Road test (only if necessary)

If the cognitive test results for seniors in Ontario require it, you may need to pass a road test as part of your licence renewal process. This is based on how well you perform during the screening and on your driving record in Ontario. An over 80 driving test is not much different from a regular one. However, they will likely consider specific circumstances and conditions that might limit a good range of motion when driving.

Notifying MTO of medical condition

Ontario doctors, nurse practitioners and optometrists have a legal obligation to notify the Ministry of Transportation (MTO) if they believe a patient, including a senior citizen, has a condition that makes them a potentially unsafe driver. Ontario medical professionals typically assess their older patients’ driving ability based on about 100 conditions from the Canadian Medical Association.

Conditions that are often (but not always) reported include:

  • Seizures (May result in temporary suspension of license)
  • Mild dementia
  • Heart attack
  • Diminishing eye sight
  • Renal failure

Any one of these conditions can make it dangerous for you to drive.

Referrals for additional assessment prior to renewal

Prior to your birthday, your doctor may refer you to a social worker, nurse, occupational therapist or other professional to complete an in-depth assessment of your driving abilities prior to your senior driver’s licence renewal. These professionals use a variety of assessment tools, questionnaires and activities. The purpose of these referrals is to provide local provincial transportation authorities with additional information to enable them to make a fair assessment of your ability to drive safely. Depending on the results of your assessment, you may need a convalescence period or rehabilitation before you can renew your licence.

The following are used to make the final decision about whether or not you may renew your driver’s licence or renew it with conditions:

  • Your doctor’s report
  • Medical documentation, where applicable
  • Your driving record
  • Road test results

Examples of conditions include not driving at night or needing to wear corrective lenses.

Booking your renewal session       

When booking your senior driver’s licence renewal, be sure to have your licence handy to provide the specific number. This is also an excellent time to ask for any special accommodations and clarify requirements, such as wheelchair accessibility or an interpreter for foreign or sign language.

Appointments can be made by calling 416-235-3579 in Toronto or 1-800-396-4233 on a toll-free basis to start booking your appointment. You can also email any questions or concerns to [email protected]

As a senior in Ontario, you are still free to maintain your driving privileges if you follow these steps. You’ll need to demonstrate your ability to drive safely and responsibly on the road past your 80th birthday. Upholding your independence is important to maintain your ability to travel and visit destinations as you please. Whether it’s a quick drive to the store for groceries or attending doctor’s appointments, being able to remain self-sufficient is an important element to your quality of life.  For more helpful information, please click here.

If you have any questions about licensing or how insurance premiums change with age, contact one of our isure representatives with your questions. We’ll be more than happy to help you stay mobile!

Related Articles