Senior driving test system too rigid, says Long Sault man

John Milnes, 84, of Headline Road, left, and MPP Jim McDonell, right, hold a roundtable Thursday, Aug. 18, 2016 with reporters at McDonell's office. The MPP wants better treatment for senior drivers when it comes to mandatory testing after 80. (Newswatch Group/Bill Kingston)

CORNWALL – For John Milnes, overcoming a major stroke 12 years ago to be able to walk and talk again may have been life’s biggest challenge.

“They told me I would never walk again or talk again and here I’m babbling away,” the 84-year-old Long Sault man laughed as he spoke with reporters Thursday morning.

But that seems to pale in comparison to Milnes’ bigger challenge lately – the hoops he’s had to jump through to keep his driver’s licence after reaching 80 years of age.

The self-proclaimed Liberal joined Progressive Conservative MPP Jim McDonell to bring attention to a patchwork of problems with the driver’s licencing system, especially for people over age 80.

“I found that bureaucracy and particularly the political will in Toronto is not there to help us,” Milnes said.

“The problem lies in the reality that we are dictated to by the province to go to a particular place to spend two-and-a-half to three hours at their demand. And what Jim and I are looking at is break that up and say, whomever goes to Service Ontario for a driving licence we should be able allowed, as people plus-80, to go to the same location and get exactly what we want, which is a driving licence. We may have to do the cognitive test. We may have to do the eye test. But there’s nothing stopping them having that facility at Service Ontario where a person can go in their own time frame,” Milnes stated.

After having the stroke, Milnes lost his licence. In order to get it back, he said he had to take an $850 test with an occupational therapist in Ottawa because no services were available locally.

“They can’t practice because there’s no provisional driving licence and I’ve been after the minister to provide that provisional driving licence for something like three years now. And I’ve been told ‘We’re working on it’,” Milnes said.

Milnes, who is also president of the Eastern Ontario Stroke Survivors’ Support Group, understands the importance of testing every second year for people over 80, but everyone is different.

“Last year, I drove to California and back – no problems whatsoever. This year, I’ve been driving in Europe and England and I had 2,000 miles driving on the other side of the road, no problems. Everybody is different. Some people should never be driving, others should. But does age come into this? I don’t think believe it necessarily should,” he said.

As for the testing, Milnes highlighted problems with testing cancellations and getting through the government’s hotline to book a test.

“I’ve had three re-test cancellations this year, alone. My birthday is 4th of April. I just took my test last week,” he said.

After holding a temporary licence, Milnes said he passed his test last week.

“The province has come up a way that they feel is necessary to screen patients but they have made it incredibly inconvenient,” McDonell said.

McDonell has launched a petition, asking for Group Education Session and for assessments on a walk-in basis at places like the Cornwall DriveTest Center.

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