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Elder Law in Canada**ELIC**” Estate Document Professor** EDP**
Notice to Readers. This is a special article by Allan Gold on Elder Law, published in the Senior Times, such for seniors and their families, particularly spouses, adult children, caregivers, etc. The subject is the “SENIOR DRIVER.” It’s a compilation of the 1st and the 2nd of a 3-part blog mini series, found at https://allanjgold.com/blog/ the last of which, will be uploaded Oct. 21st 2019. Blog #3 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.
SPECIAL EDITION OF ALLAN GOLD’S BLOG – Oct. 17, 2019
SAAQ/MTO/DMV: SENIOR DRIVER’S LICENSE ISSUES (Parts 1&2)
A. OPENING: We all have had occasion to encounter a senior driver on our boulevards and highways. It could have been a male old-timer, who was something of a “Speedy Gonzales,” driving his sedan as if it was a ‘souped-up’ hot rod, but that’s unlikely. In the alternative, it could have been a woman, an old biddy type, emulating, the “Little Old Lady from Pasadena,” but that too is unlikely. Instead, it’s much more probable that we would have found ourselves in the middle of rush hour behind an older driver, short in the seat, stiffly staring ahead with a tight, two-handed grip of the steering wheel, driving in the left passing lane at a snail’s pace. As a driver following behind, the typical reaction would be impatience and frustration, indeed exasperation, possibly exclaiming, “If you’re taking a ‘Sunday drive,’ then do it on Sunday” or “Get off the road – you shouldn’t be driving any more.”
But wait, you need to calm down and remember that older citizens are free and each of them is entitled to drive as much as the rest of us. Someone might ask, “What about protecting the aged person (and everyone else) if he or she is no longer able to drive safely?” Of course, we don’t want him or her to get hurt and we don’t want passengers riding along to get injured. We also must see to the security of the general public, either sitting in cars/trucks or walking down the street. This means that we need rules in the interest of everyone to protect one and all. The foregoing are all good thoughts, but not easily done and reconcilable.
And that’s my ‘lead-in’ to the subject of the Senior (Auto) Driver. When retirement planning, you should consider the possibility that on getting older, over 75, etc., you might not be able to drive. Please continue reading if looking for more information (from an “avocat,” one of the family law lawyers, family lawyers Montreal, practicing in the elder law field), and this on the topic of 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.
B. SENIOR DRIVER INCIDENTS CONCERN YOU!
After that introduction, I need to drive home the relevance of this topic to you right now. To identify the danger in a clear and simple way, I’ll speak of accidents involving a senior (auto) driver. I’ll start with the car accident in the UK, which occurred on January 17, 2019 and Prince Philip was one of the drivers. It again raised the issue of aged people operating motor vehicles on our streets and avenues. Since it involved a high profile personality, it got a lot of media attention and lots of people were talking about it. I will then relate some of the circumstances of two more reported cases, much closer to home.
Next, I will follow that up with a commentary as to why it’s so difficult emotionally to deal with the situation of an aged driver. So buckle up and here we go!
B.1 Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh: Incident of Jan. 17, 2019. Dateline London January 17 2019 (Updated: 18th January 2019, 7:22 am). For me, the headline of the Sun.Co.UK newspaper seemed to succinctly frame the accident and the issue – “AGE OLD DEBATE, Prince Philip car crash aged 97 sparks fresh debate over whether there should be a driving age limit.”
Circumstances of accident: Prince Philip, 97, was driving a 4×4 Range Rover in eastern England. To be more precise, it occurred near the royal retreat in Sandringham at or about the entrance to the main road close to Babingley. His car flipped over and ended up on its side with a smashed windscreen. The Prince’s explanation was that he was dazzled by the sun. Prince Philip was unhurt. The accident involved another car notably a KIA, carrying two women and a 10-month-old baby, one of which was Emma Fairweather, who suffered a broken wrist.
Commentaries: Wilford quoted AA president Edmund King as saying, “We wish the Duke of Edinburgh well. “Many commentators use high profile car crashes involving elderly drivers as a reason to call for bans or restrictions on older drivers. “If driving restrictions based on age and safety were introduced we would be more likely to restrict young drivers rather than older drivers. “The decision to hang up your keys is a tough one but should be based on personal advice from your GP and family rather than being based on some arbitrary age. We all age differently and the car is an essential lifeline for many elderly people.”1
Epilogue: As a follow-up, I mention three further news articles. The first by Jamie Doward and agency of Sat. 19 Jan. 2019 16.00 GMT in the Observer, which was titled, “Police speak to Prince Philip after he is pictured driving again Duke reportedly back behind the wheel without a seatbelt as it is revealed councillors and police had clashed over speed cameras plans.” The journalist was expressing surprise and a hint of dismay at the fact that Prince Philip was back behind the wheel of a brand new automobile just two days after the above car crash.2 The next one (filed by The AP on Jan. 27, 2019 5:45 PM ET) from The CBC was titled, “Prince Philip tells car crash victim he is ‘deeply sorry’ Emma Fairweather suffered a broken wrist in collision with car driven by Duke of Edinburgh.” You see, Prince Philip wrote a letter of apology to Emma Fairweather, a woman injured in the car accident. It was reported that he was not charged with any infraction and continues to drive.3
And then on February 09, 2019, it was reported that Prince Philip, 97, “voluntarily” decided to give up his driver’s license. While it’s true that it was subsequent to the crash, it seems that it also came after the further incident when he was caught driving without a seatbelt. Of course, driving unbuckled is against the law. It’s noteworthy that he surrendered his license only after his file was reportedly provided to the crown prosecution and consideration was being given to the bringing of charges against him. 4
So what do you think about sharing a neighborhood avenue with a near centenarian driver? Want to continue down this road? Or would you prefer to pull off the street, cover your eyes and ears and ask me to speak no more of this? Assuming that you’re not mimicking this pictorial maxim, then let’s keep going…shall we?
B.2 90-Year-Old Male Driver in Montreal, Quebec. On Monday, February 5, 2018, there was a report of CTV Montreal titled, “A 44-year-old mother was killed and her five-year-old son critically injured when hit by a car in the parking lot of a shopping center – Village Montpellier – on Sunday afternoon.”
Circumstances of accident: It involved a man in his 90’s, waiting for someone inside the shopping center. As per the facts, he was the driver of the car, which started to roll forward. It was further reported that he “…could scarcely remember what happened in the moments leading up to the fatal collision.” He was not injured or taken to hospital after the accident. Although police did not officially announce that the man’s age factored in the accident – it had some critics questioning whether there should be a workable age limit for drivers. 5
B.3 Female Driver (97) from Saint-Nazaire-d’Acton, Quebec. On Saturday, June 9, 2018, there was a newspaper article titled, “97-year-old Quebec woman dies in driving accident.”
Circumstances of accident: Peter Rakobowchuk (of Canadian Press) reported that a woman from Saint-Nazaire-d’Acton was driving her Chevrolet Aveo in neighboring Saint-Eugène when it overturned and ended up in a ditch. She died, having suffered a snapped vertebrae in her neck. Excessive speeding did not appear to be a factor. Instead, it was determined that the probable cause was a deer or an animal crossing in front and causing her to swerve.
Commentaries: The article included several interesting factual statements. First, Madeleine Major, 71, the niece of the deceased, said that her aunt once told her, “As long as I have my sight, as long as the Good Lord gives me permission to drive, it’s my happiness (and) I don’t ask for more in life than that.” Second, Mme. Major stated that her aunt had no prior ill-health reason, which had necessitated the stoppage of her driving. Indeed, the deceased was apparently in very good health and had no problems with her heart or lungs. In fact, the coroner, i.e., Yvon Garneau had called to tell her that the victim “did not have a heart attack…. died instantly and did not suffer….” 6
So when driving, you have more to worry about than potholes. If you’re concerned about a senior driver amongst your circle of friends and family, please stay buckled – the rest of the article is for you!
C. LET’S CUT THROUGH EMOTIONAL CLUTTER: When answering the question whether or not, an older person should still be driving a motor vehicle, emotion nearly always, gets in the way. Let’s analyze this!
It’s hard for the senior driver!
It’s an every day occurrence when Canadian motorists impassively open correspondence from the Société de l’assurance automobile du Québec (SAAQ), the Ministry of Transportation of Ontario (MTO) or the equivalent department of motor vehicles (DMV) of another Canadian province/territory. However, in the instance of a mature driver, the initial feeling might be one of trepidation. You see, they might think that the letter contains a demand requiring something new and extra about the renewal of his/her driving license. If it does, their demeanor would likely then turn to one of negative surprise. It may even provoke a little shriek of dismay, “This is another way “Big Brother” needlessly pesters us little people.” But such would probably give way to great concern on realizing that what comes next might jeopardize his/her continuing to hold an (unlimited) license to drive. And if and when, being notified that the SAAQ/MTO (or the DMV having jurisdiction) is lifting his/her driver’s license, the addressee, now incredulous, could become combative and yell, “I object and I vow to fight this injustice until ‘the cows come home.’
In order to dissect this reaction, we should start with the dislike felt by all of us when we’re told what to do and what not to do. Next, more on topic, in response to one or more written demands of the SAAQ/MTO (or the DMV having jurisdiction), which could result in making us a non-driver, we might plead, “Why is this happening to me. I’ve been driving all my life and there’s no cause for me to stop now.” In support, we might speak with great pride of having NIL demerit points, this due to moving (non parking) violations being few and far between. And we may also point to a clean record, (just about accident/claim free), with an auto insurance company. But should circumstances be such that we’re given a restricted driving permit, no one would be a ‘happy camper.’ Of course, it’s perfectly natural for us to be resistant to restrictions of any form being imposed. But on receiving a letter going all the way to lifting one’s driver’s license altogether, one would probably find this quite devastating. This is because such represents the suppression of a legal privilege, long taken for granted. But more, it also entails the (a) Loss of (i). Mobility from place to place; and (ii). Independence, since we now must rely on others; (b) Need to develop greater patience, this resulting from being obliged to wait on a family member, friend or a taxi-patient transport driver, etc.
It’s also very difficult for relatives and friends!
It’s even worse when a (close) relative or friend must tell a mature driver that he/she must stop driving. The automatic push back would tend to create much friction, never mind, the possibility of damaging the relationship. If it’s an adult child, watch out – the fireworks will likely start big time! You see, it’s not just that the elderly is unhappy about not driving any longer, but he/she also objects to someone to whom, he/she has given directions-instructions in the past, now telling him/her how it’s going to be from hereon out. Of course, this is really tough to take! Indeed, a close relative or friend needs to tread carefully and deal with this matter in a sensitive way.
It’s best for the mature driver to hand over the keys voluntarily!
In view of the foregoing, it’s so much better for all concerned when the mature driver decides on his/her own and willingly stops driving. Of course, this is in keeping with the sentiment arising from the statement, “I’ve been making decisions all my life and I don’t see why this has to change now.” But more, the surrender of a driver’s license shows comprehension of several really good reasons to do so.
- He/she is older and the senses are not as sharp as they once were. He/she may be suffering from one or more maladies or diseases or have a medical condition, etc. As a result, he/she may not be well enough to get behind the wheel. Indeed, it may be dangerous to his/her well-being to continue to drive. Of course, self preservation should prompt us to do anything and everything in order to stay safe!
- He/she also doesn’t want to hurt others. If there’s a risk that his/her driving might pose a danger to the public, then he/she needs to stop. Indeed, he/she must take the high road and do the right thing for our collective security.
D. CLOSING: Today, I dealt with the situation of the elderly driver. I briefly recounted the circumstances of several accidents – I hope that such struck a chord. In addition, I addressed the emotional minefields arising when an older person is driving a motor vehicle. If a senior, you might now be able to see the light and get beyond the emotion. If dealing with an aged relative who is still driving, you may now be better equipped to broach this very touchy subject. But don’t stop now – you’re still not quite there yet.
I think you’ll agree that it’s beneficial for you next to consider some of the major rules as for example, those regarding 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. Indeed, it might be a great way for you to learn about something important that you told yourself that you must do someday, but to date, just never got around to doing. If so, please be advised that you’ll be able to access this content in the forthcoming Blog #14.3, such to be uploaded on or about Oct. 21, 2019 at https://allanjgold.com/blog/
So driving a car is yet another area of concern in old age. For me, the best corrective action in response thereto, is to secure more information. And yes, you can quote me on that!*
P.S. I believe that with these special articles published in the Senior Times, I may have started you on the way to being more aware of Elder Law. Want to read more 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? It won’t take too much time. Remember my byline – it’s “Gold’s Legal Minute*GLM*!” Kindly visit my site at www.alllanjgold.com And please 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