Gananoque mayor calls for new type of driver’s licence

Gananoque Mayor John Beddows – photo via Facebook

Gananoque Mayor John Beddows wants to have a discussion with the community he serves about driver’s licences in Ontario.

Specifically, Beddows wonders if it is time for a second type of graduated driver’s licence in Ontario to help older people stay independent as long as possible.

He posed the question on his public Facebook page, looking to create discussion with members of the community and media.

“The ‘G’ system is an ‘all or nothing’ licensing system,” reads Beddows’s post.

“As a driver, you have to be medically fit to operate a private vehicle under all weather conditions at all hours of the day. This means general health, eyesight, reaction times and hearing at a level to safely operate a vehicle at 2 a.m. on Highway 401 in a February snowstorm.

“We all know that as we get older, we gain experience but at the same time our physical abilities degrade. For many seniors, the loss of their driver’s licence is a significant concern as it means the loss of their independence. At the same time, we have to accept that road safety and the safety of others has to come before any one individual’s privilege to drive.”

Beddows believes there needs to be a middle ground, and he’s suggesting an idea – graduated licensing that reflects physical ability.

“What if, rather than completely losing a driver’s licence when reaction times, vision and hearing fall below the full G threshold, we had a graduated licence that reflected physical limitations for operation of a private vehicle.”

Beddows says a version of this could be a licence which allows a driver to operate their vehicle on roads with speed limits of 80 km/h or less during daylight hours only.

“This would let a senior keep their licence, keep their car or truck, and match their license to their abilities,” said Beddows. “We must accept that there will still come a time when a driver isn’t able to drive safely and must lose their licence, but having a graduated system could create conditions to allow some to keep their licence longer.”

To Beddows, this idea speaks to rural and small-town Ontario, where there isn’t transit, and taxis are an added expense and pricey for long trips such as from Gananoque to Kingston and back.

For the most part, a private vehicle is necessary to have access to services, visit friends and to be able to enjoy an independent lifestyle.

“We already have graduated licensing at the beginning of a driver’s career,” said Beddows. “Why not towards the end as well? Especially if it balances the need for public safety with the need to help preserve quality of life and independence.”

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