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Seniors driving licence rules slammed at forum

The way in which the B.C. government determines if seniors are allowed to remain on the road is “unfair” and intimidating, says NDP MLA Nicholas Simons.

The Powell River-Sunshine Coast MLA spoke to about 60 seniors about DriveABLE, a program that tests seniors’ cognitive abilities.

Those with a valid driver’s licence when they turn 80 receive a letter from the Superintendent of Motor Vehicles requesting they visit their doctor within 30 days and provide the government with a medical report indicating whether they are still fit to drive.

Those that aren’t, are referred to DriveABLE.

“I have people coming to my office saying the entire process is unfair,” Simons told the large crowd gathered at the Campbell River Seniors Centre Friday afternoon. “Then I found out the test the government is making us use was never independently assessed. Nobody checked to make sure it was accurate.”

The test involves a 45-minute touch screen exam which tests seniors’ cognitive functions like memory, attention span and spatial reasoning that decline with age. Many seniors have complained that they have failed the test because they’re not familiar with computers and don’t know how to work the touch screen, said Simons.

In March, the Liberals announced changes to the program that now allow seniors who fail the computerized portion of the test, to proceed with a road test that is designed to reveal errors due to cognitive decline. Minor handling errors or bad habits are not part of the scoring system.

Simons said the changes don’t go far enough.

He says there are not enough centres that administer the test, which is forcing seniors in some cases to drive hours away from home. Many are also afraid of having to use a computer.

“I think the government should be capable of applying policy that’s fair, that’s not intimidating,” Simons said. “I don’t think scaring people, making them use computers they’re not familiar with, making them use a car they’re not familiar with, on roads they’re not familiar with is a good measure of whether people are able to drive.”

One woman spoke of her husband’s experience with DriveABLE.

She said he failed the road test because he had to take it in Victoria.

“He’s not used to driving in the big cities, he drives in Campbell River,” she said. “Not in Victoria, not in Vancouver. The test should be done in their own community.”

For seniors living in Campbell River, the closest testing centre is now in Courtenay.

Simons encouraged seniors to write to Justice Minister Shirley Bond.

“I think seniors will support a driver testing system that’s fair, that’s not tricky and not so expensive.”

Although the government will pay for both the road and computer test, if a senior fails they must pay $350 to take the test a second time.

“This is about fairness,” Simons said. “I think this is a good opportunity to write to the government and ask for fairness.”

For more information on the program go to driveable.com

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