For all drivers in Ontario, regardless of vehicle, a basic set of medical standards must be met. These are requirements, by law, to operate a motor vehicle in the province. They are outlined by Ontario Regulations, which states drivers must not:
- Suffer any disability (mental, emotional, physical or nervousness-related) which is likely to substantially impair their ability to drive a vehicle of the license class they are obtaining,
- Be addicted to alcohol or a drug to such an extent that it would likely impair their ability to drive a vehicle safely,
If there is a question of whether the driver meets the standards specified, the ministry has the right to refuse them a license. Further, the Canadian Council of Motor Transport Administrators has detailed information on the topic to help ministry officials make the call.
Beyond the basic medical standards, there is also additional vision-related requirements for those seeking G, G1, G2, M, M1 or M2 license. There are distinct medical reporting cycles and requirements for commercial license applicants (classes A, B, C, E and F).
While s. 14 outlines what is prohibited, s. 18 outlines what a driver must have. Standards for vision include visual acuities not poorer than 20/50 (as measured by their Snellen Rating). For this rating to count, both eyes will be rated together, open and corrective lenses may be used in some cases. Additionally, s. 18 specifies that an applicant must have a horizontal visual field of 120 continuous degrees (or greater) along the horizontal meridian and at least 15 continuous degrees above and below fixation. Again, both eyes must be open and will be rated together.
It's your duty to report
According to Ontario law, both physicians and optometrists have a duty to report patients who, in the medical opinion of the professional, could be unfit to drive as a result of an impairment. This requirement is found in s. 203, 204 of the Highway Traffic Act.
This means that no legal or professional action can be brought against a qualified medical practitioner for reporting this. These reports will not be open to public inspection and the reports are, with some exceptions, not admissible evidence in a trial. Reports generally must include a patient’s name, address and clinical condition though they can be more extensive, including gender and date of birth.
Patients have the right to access these reports under the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act, if requested, however doctors may withhold the report if there is evidence that its release wound endanger the safety of the doctor, patient or any other individual.
There is currently no mandatory reporting for nurse practitioners.
Under s. 199(3) of the Highway Traffic Act, police are required to report all collisions within 10 days. Police also may report drivers who they feel are medically unfit, thereby posing a risk to public safety, whether that driver has come to their attention by complaint, collision or otherwise. Each year, the ministry receives thousands of reports from police about possibly medically impaired drivers.
How disability affects driving
Beyond medical standards and duty to report, it’s important to know how disability can affect driving. Drivers with a disability may be unaware of the risk they are putting themselves, their passengers and the public in.
The AARP offers helpful information on vision and driving and hearing and driving. For vision, they recommend getting regular eye exams from qualified doctors, avoiding driving with eyeglasses with wide temples and exercising caution when driving in rain, fog, snow, sleet or ice. For hearing, tips include being alert to changes in your hearing, minimizing passenger car conversation if it is distracting and visiting a physician if hearing seems reduced.
As mentioned, a tendency to abuse alcohol or drugs can mean a higher chance of injury in a vehicle. The Canadian Centre on Substance Use and Addiction (CCSUA) offers more insight on impaired driving, including drug-impaired driving, alcohol-impaired driving and impaired driving in general. They note that impaired driving is a major cause of vehicle collisions and thousands have died in Canada as a result of impaired drivers. If you’ve been in a collision, it’s important to know what to do. Additionally, the upcoming legalization of marijuana will impact Canadian drivers.
Distracted driving is another area of growing concern and it’s possible we could someday see changes to medical standards as a result. Police are getting better at catching distracted drivers in the act as well.
All of these behaviors can be considered as a part of dangerous driving, a set of habits that endanger the lives of drivers, passengers and the public.
If you have been injured as a result of an impaired, distracted or medically inhibited driver, we can help. Contact us to learn more.