MONTREAL -- Blanche Major loved to drive in and around her small town about 90 kilometres east of Montreal and her niece says the 97-year-old planned to stay behind the wheel as long as she was allowed to.

But Major's love of the roads ended Thursday afternoon when she died after her Chevrolet Aveo overturned and ended up in a ditch in a village near her hometown of Saint-Nazaire-d'Acton.

"She was on a road in Saint-Eugene and it was probably a deer or an animal that crossed in front and she swerved and went into a ditch," Madeleine Major, 71, told The Canadian Press on Saturday.

Major said her aunt once told her: "As long as I have my sight, as long as the Good Lord gives me permission to drive, it's my happiness (and) I don't ask for more in life than that."

Madeleine Major also said coroner Yvon Garneau called to tell her that her aunt was in very good health and had no problems with her heart or lungs.

"She did not have a heart attack while driving her car, and when she overturned in the ditch, a vertebrae in her neck snapped," Major said, adding the coroner told her she died instantly and did not suffer.

The small vehicle was equipped with OnStar, a General Motors emergency communications service.

"Mr. Garneau said OnStar (personnel) could hear that when she went into the ditch she was crying," Major added.

A provincial police spokesman says the jaws of life had to be used to free the woman from her vehicle.

Excessive speeding did not appear to be a factor.

Major said her aunt was once stopped on a weekend by police who told her she wasn't going fast enough.

Marcel Salvas, a longtime friend, described Blanche Major as "very polite, very helpful and very charming."

"I've known her since I was 12," he said, noting she had lived alone "for a long time" since her husband's death.

He said Major never drove very fast and really had a passion for driving.

"She was out almost every day in her small car," said Salvas, 71.

"She could see very clearly and had all her faculties. Often when she drove by, she would come into my yard, she would sit on my swing and we would talk."

He drove by Major's house Saturday morning and said it was hard for him to believe she was dead.

"I stopped my four-wheeler and stared at her house and told myself it's not possible that she's no longer there," Salvas said.

'But to get to 97, she had a good run."

Major would have turned 98 in October.