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Since the initial pandemic shutdown, Ontario has suspended its group education sessions required to renew driver’s licences for people 80 and over. One person I know had his session cancelled and, so, his licence technically expired in April 2020. No notice of extension has been issued, but the phone message at ServiceOntario indicates that these licences continue to be valid. Do the police and insurance companies accept this? – Mary

In Ontario, once you turn 80, you have to take a refresher class every two years to renew your licence.

The group classes – part of a session that includes a vision test, a cognitive test and, if necessary, a road test – are Ontario’s attempt to answer an age-old question: how long should drivers stay on the road?

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But with the mandatory sessions paused due to COVID-19, seniors can keep driving without them, the province said.

“Recognizing that Ontario will be facing COVID-19 for some time, Ontario is temporarily waiving the driver’s licence renewal requirements for seniors aged 80 and over so that these individuals can renew their driver’s licences,” said Lee Alderson, senior-issues adviser with Ontario’s Ministry of Transportation (MTO), in an e-mail.

That means you can renew your licence online and get it mailed to you without taking the session, Alderson said.

If your licence expired on or after March 1, 2020, you can still keep driving with your expired licence.

“Ontario has temporarily extended the validity of Ontario driver, vehicle and carrier products, including driver’s licences and licence plate stickers,” Alderson said. “As such, documents that expired on or after March 1, 2020 remain valid and legal past the expiry, until further notice.”

That’s not just for seniors, it’s for all car and motorcycle drivers. It’s part of MTO measures to keep people from having to visit ServiceOntario centres.

Police on board

Since the province didn’t send out letters saying that licences are extended, what happens if police pull you over?

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“The government did notify police, insurance companies and out-of-province authorities of the driver and vehicle extensions,” Alderson said.

For instance, Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) say they’re not charging people who are driving with expired licences – as long as those licences expired after March 1, 2020.

“In cases where an offence was laid in error, the person will be reinstated a refund,” Staff Sergeant Carolle Dionne, OPP spokeswoman, said in an e-mail.

That forgiveness only applies to expired licences – it’s still illegal to drive with a suspended licence, Dionne said.

But what about insurance? Normally, if you’re driving with an expired licence, your insurance company might not cover you in a crash.

Joe Daly, a spokesman for Desjardins Insurance, says the company will insure drivers “who have been allowed an extension by MTO.”

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While you’re still allowed to drive with an expired licence, it’s a good idea to renew it online to avoid potential headaches with police or your insurance company.

“We strongly encourage everyone to renew their driver’s licence and licence plate stickers, especially if you need to travel outside Ontario for essential purposes this winter,” Alderson said.

Rules vary by province

The rules for senior drivers vary by province. Several provinces, including British Columbia, Alberta, Quebec and Newfoundland, require medical reports from a driver’s doctor.

In Alberta, for instance, drivers need a doctor’s exam at age 75, 80 and then every two years after 80.

Because of COVID-19, Alberta is letting drivers renew licences without the exam right now. B.C. has also paused its requirement.

“We expect this exemption to be in place for the remainder of the current public health emergency,” McKenzie Kibler, spokesman for Alberta’s Ministry of Transportation, said in an e-mail.

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Have a driving question? Send it to globedrive@globeandmail.com and put ‘Driving Concerns’ in your subject line. Emails without the correct subject line may not be answered. Canada’s a big place, so let us know where you are so we can find the answer for your city and province.

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