Has Ontario turned its doctors into bounty hunters?

Posted September 27, 2012

It was reported in the Toronto Star that Ontario doctors are paid $36.25 by the Ministry of Transportation for each driver they report as being unfit to drive.

These are the same doctors who are currently locked into a dispute with the province regarding their pay packages.

A study conducted by Dr. Donald Redelmeier, of the Institute for Clinical Evaluation Sciences, proclaimed, “the reduction in risk was immediate, substantial and sustained.”

There is no question about getting unfit drivers off the roads. There is a question of how it is done. Paying doctors to blow the whistle is not one of them.

Let’s look at a typical scenario. An elderly lady comes into the doctor’s office for treatment of an unrelated matter. The doctor is faced with a dilemma because he feels she should not be driving. So he reports her and receives a cheque for $36.25. The trouble is, he has no knowledge of her driving ability including reaction time, safety habits or record.

Under this system she loses her licence.

The Ministry of Transportation (MOT) is responsible for the licensing of Ontario’s drivers. Its own counselors inform those taking the elderly driver (EDL) classes and tests, that the program has markedly reduced accidents involving seniors. So much so that the age group causing the greatest number of accidents involving death and injury, are the under-25 licence holders.

Where the MOT falls down is failing to test the individual driver’s ability to drive a vehicle. This means that reaction time should be measured along with the physical abilities. The MOT already has a system for testing the eyesight of EDL drivers backed up by optometrists and ophthalmologists.

Any driver involved in an accident or charged with a serious offense under the Highway Traffic Act should be tested by the MOT.

Using driver training devices that test an operator’s ability to function using actual road travel on a screen, allows the MOT counselor to get a complete analysis of the candidate’s ability to drive.

Despite The Star’s editorial stating, “You don’t have to be old or ailing to be a bad driver.” It continues to go on to give several examples of horrific accidents involving old people, only one of which occurred in Ontario.

There’s something sleazy and Orwellian about this process of elimination. It rocks the doctor/patient relationship and excuses the MOT from its primary licensing responsibility.

Of course bad drivers should be taken off the road, regardless of their age.

But place that decision where it belongs: The Ontario Ministry of Transportation.





Filed under Between the Lines

2 responses to “Has Ontario turned its doctors into bounty hunters?

  1. Robert Orrico

    Although this is an old story it is still relevant. Doctors should know their clients if they have been treating them for an extended period of time. They therefore should be able to see changes in their abilities. They do have access to mini tests that they can have their client perform. The results are very accurate. If these tests indicate cognitive reduction the Doctor should notify MTO. They can if they want to refer the client to Driver Rehabilitation Facility where further testing (at client expense) can occur.

    The MTO program is offered to individuals 80 years and above. We as a society can’t afford to start the program earlier to deal with an activity which is a privilige.

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