This is another blog post on Elder Law, such for seniors and their families, particularly spouses, adult children, caregivers, etc. The subject is the “SENIOR DRIVER.” It’s the 3rd of a 3-part blog mini series, which will address some of the major rules as for example on the renewal of the driving license of an older person, the driver’s license review process (encompassing a medical exam, vision test and senior driving test), the issuance of a restricted driving permit, etc.
Vol. 11, #14.3B – Oct. 28, 2019–ALLAN GOLD’S BLOG
SAAQ/MTO/DMV: SENIOR DRIVER’S LICENCE ISSUES CONT’D (Part 3B)
B.1.2 Driver’s License Review Process. Should you declare a change in your state of health, the SAAQ will study the statement made, the answers provided on the form, etc. (N.B. The SAAQ may also be jarred into action by the information of others such as a doctor – please see below.) The SAAQ will then inform you by letter of its preliminary assessment of your situation. On determining your case to be one that should be reviewed, the SAAQ, may resort to one or more of the following means of further verification: (a) Visual test; (b) Declaration of disease or functional deficit; (c) Medical or visual examination report; (d) Reassessment of competencies; (e) Behavioral assessments in relation to alcohol or drugs; etc.
B.1.2.1 Visual Test: Its purpose is to assess visual acuity, visual field and perception colors, this with the intent of ensuring that the subject person meets the visual standards set for the class requested. Typically, it’s carried out whilst using an Orthorater-type device. Of course, it’s a question of plain sight. Indeed, if you see well enough, then it’s probably go and drive; but if you don’t, then it could be stop and hand over the keys!
B.1.2.2 “La Déclaration de maladie ou de déficit fonctionnel relative à l’état de santé : It’s where you state that you have an illness or functional deficiency. If a completed form has not yet been provided by you or a more current one is necessary, you may be asked to make this self-declaration or an updated version thereof. Of course, tell the truth. Indeed, it’s in your self-interest, but also to keep others safe!
B.1.2 3 Medical Exam-Report; The SAAQ could ask for the medical report of a general practitioner (GP) or such specialists as orthopedists, cardiologists, psychiatrists, neurologists, otolaryngologists, occupational therapists, etc. The report for a driver’s licence is to reveal and/or supplement data about you and any health problems, this with a view to determine whether or not, you’re fit to drive and/or if conditions should be imposed. (N.B. Medical related information will be held by SAAQ and the appropriate condition(s) will be recorded on the license as long as it’s necessary to ensure the safety of the driver and that of others.) You might say, “I feel good – I’m as healthy as a horse.” If you receive a clean bill of health, you might be free to go on your way down the road; but if failing to get an OK from Dr. Check- Up, then it’s likely, “Kindly step out of the driver’s seat.”
B.188.8.131.52 Ophthalmologist/optometrist Exam-Report: The SAAQ may also ask for a visual examination/report by and from an ophthalmologist or optometrist. Indeed, with this exam, no studying is required! Such may reveal what it reveals and you may be left sidelined as a result.
B.1.2.4 Reassessment of driving ability: In a way, it’s as if the SAAQ is requiring the subject to become relicensed. The SAAQ could ask for a road test. This is where the driver’s current driving performance would be assessed. While it’s close-up and personal, it’s supposed to be objective! And there would also be a knowledge test. Such consists of multiple choice questions that cover the Highway Safety Code, road signs and traffic signals. Indeed, it’s a “Study, Pass & Drive” or” Fail, Crackle & Pop!”
B.1.3 Quebec Driver Reaching Age of 75, 80. The SAAQ knows that certain health or vision problems may arise as you age – that’s why it has more rules for you especially on approaching your 75th birthday. More precisely, six (6) months before your 75th birthday, again six (6) months before your 80th birthday and then every two years after the age of 80, (regardless if in good health and have many years of driving experience), you should expect a SAAQ letter stating that you MUST undergo the following: (a) Medical examination by a physician. Such an examination is to check your general state of health, mobility (ranges of motion, on turning the head, etc.) and cognitive functions (i.e., behavior, memory, attention, etc.) (b) Vision test (carried out by an optometrist or an ophthalmologist). Such a test would be to check your distance and peripheral (side) vision and any problem that might reduce your ability to drive safely, such as: cataracts, glaucoma, macular degeneration, etc. When such an examination reveal problems that could hinder a person’s ability to drive, the SAAQ may have the person undergo a road test. (Source https://saaq.gouv.qc.ca/en/drivers-licences/state-health-licence/you-will-soon-reach-the-age-of-75-or-80-and-you-have-received-a-letter/mobile/page/)
B.1.4 Conditions Added To The Driving License. This might happen – it’s out of a wish for safety and security. Indeed, a driver may have conditions imposed, much more often than losing the driver’s licence altogether. Several examples are: (a) Being restricted to daytime driving; (b) Being obliged to wear eyeglasses when driving, etc. The driving license will have the condition inscribed thereon. (N.B. It could be through a letter on the front indicating the condition set forth on the back.)
B.1.5 Unilateral Reporting By Physician, Myth Or Reality? Can it happen that a doctor reports to the SAAQ, etc. (without the patient’s consent), an opinion that a patient should no longer be driving? Here are the facts. In Quebec, under the law as stated in S. 603 of the Highway Safety Code, the health practitioner has discretion in making such a report. However, the Collège des médecins states that the physician MUST report if he/she has reason to believe that the patient represents a serious risk to public safety and continues to drive despite being warned not to. So, in actuality, it’s more likely than not, that the doctor will report your insistence on driving regardless of the medical opinion to refrain from doing so. (Highway Safety Code, CQLR c C-24.2, s 603; Collège des médecins du Québec, Guide d’exercice, L’évaluation médicale de l’aptitude à conduire un véhicule automobile (Mars 2007); Highway Traffic Act, RSO 1990, c H.8, s 203(2) ; etc.)
B.1.6 Application For Review – Contesting A Decision By SAAQ. You may contest an unfavorable decision by the SAAQ concerning your driver’s licence. But before embarking, please be informed :
• That you have the burden of proof to demonstrate, (principally by providing new facts), that you are able to drive safely. Typically, this would be a favorable report from a physician. It may indicate an improvement in your state of health or satisfactory determination following treatment, prosthesis or other surgery, additional training, etc.
• That as regards the procedure, your application for review must be filed in writing (https://saaq.gouv.qc.ca/fileadmin/documents/formulaires/suspension-review-application.pdf) . The deadline for filing such an application is 60 days from the date of the decision. It’s expedient to enclose the pertinent report(s) from your attending physician plus other relevant documents. Said application for review is to be mailed (preferably well in advance, by registered mail) to Service de la revision Société de l’assurance automobile du Québec, 333, boulevard Jean-Lesage Case postale 19500, succursale Terminus, Québec, (Québec), G1K 8J5.
• That the SAAQ will either authorize you to drive or uphold the suspension of licence or reaffirm or vacate the condition.
• That should the SAAQ review decision still be unfavorable, you can contest the review decision before the Administrative Tribunal of Québec (TAQ). But note that you must file your proceeding within 60 days of the date of the SAAQ’s review decision. (SAAQ: For information, the number for the Québec region is 418-643-5506 while it’s 1 800 561-2858 elsewhere in Québec, Canada or the United States.)
(N.B. There are similarities between the rules in Quebec and those in the rest of Canada. One difference in Ontario & B.C. is that the age of 80 not 75 is the first point, (provided that the review was not commenced beforehand), that the provincial authority will ask the licensed driver to go through a process demonstrating adequate health and ability to drive in order to renew his/her driver’s licence.)
In closing, I will quote Joan Collins, who said, “Age is just a number. It’s totally irrelevant unless, of course, you happen to be a bottle of wine.” (Source: https://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/joan_collins_386685) In the present context, I would add, “Or unless you’re licensed to drive a car.”
But I do submit that the fact that you reach a milestone birthday does not necessarily mean that you will lose the right to drive. In contrast, the fact that you have reached a certain age just necessitates the need for you to answer questions, possibly to undergo one or more test(s) and for the licensing authority to examine your file and make a determination. Indeed, age is not the critical factor. Instead, it’s your health status and ability to drive safely, which are determinant!*
D. PREVIEW OF NEXT IN THE ELDER LAW BLOG SERIES. I believe that with this blog series on elder law, I may have started you along the way to being more aware of elder law. Today, I completed the series on the aged driver. Next time, I’ll deal with the subject, which I call, “An Elderly Person & The Place He/She Calls Home.” More precisely, I will review some aspects of the “$500-million class action lawsuit against the provincial government authorized in Sept. 2019 by a Quebec Superior Court judge “for what a patients’ rights group calls the “shameful” treatment of residents in provincially funded long-term care homes.” While Quebec has 500 million reasons to pay attention to this case, you only have one – your future welfare! Interested? Want to get more information about the current topic, retirement planning, or other areas of elder law written by an “avocat,” one of the family law lawyers, family lawyers Montreal, practicing in the elder law field? See you next time. It won’t take too much time. Remember my byline – it’s “Gold’s Legal Minute*GLM*!” And don’t forget to join my professional community by entering your e-mail at the prompt. *
E. NOTICE – CAUTION –DISCLAIMER. The material provided herein is of a general nature, strictly for informational purposes. The interpretation and analysis is not to be misapplied to a personal situation with a particular set of facts. Under no circumstances, are the herein suggestions and tips, intended to bring a reader to the point of acting or not acting, but instead, the hope is that they are to be a cause for pause and reflection. It is specifically declared that this content is not to be a replacement of, or a substitution for, legal or any other appropriate advice. To the contrary, for more information on these presents, related subjects or any other questions, it is the express recommendation of the author that everyone seek out and consult a qualified professional or competent adviser.
* ©/TM 2019, 2015-2018, Allan Gold, Practitioners’ Press Inc. – ALL RIGHTS RESERVED
** ©/TM 2006, 2008, 2018 Allan Gold, Practitioners’ Press Inc. – ALL RIGHTS RESERVED