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Driving tests can be unfair for seniors

February 21, 2019

By Steve Wallace
Times Colonist, January 25th 2019

Seniors bear an unreasonable burden when it comes to driver testing, Steve Wallace writes.

 

Every system must have an element of fairness to be deemed worthy of implementation.
Here are some examples of a lack of fairness, specific to seniors, in our licensing and traffic system.
An 83-year-old senior with an impeccable lifelong driving record is obligated by the Superintendent of Motor Vehicles to go to a doctor’s office.

This is mandatory.
The appointment will determine the senior’s fitness to drive.
There will be some cognitive and physical assessments.
Despite proof offered to the physician of a continuing superior driving ability, as assessed by a driver-education professional, supported by a maximum insurance discount and proof of no fines or infractions, a practical driving test is demanded by the superintendent as a result of the doctor’s in-office assessment.

The fee for this appointment with the doctor is $225, paid by the senior.
The appointment is made for the practical driving test, administered by an ICBC driving examiner.
The test is scheduled for six weeks hence.
It will be a 90-minute session.

An eye test and a review of road signs is the first task for the senior.
This is followed by a 10-minute review of vehicle controls.
There is a 20-minute drive in a residential setting and a five minute debrief.
A second 20-minute drive in busier traffic will end with a further, more involved, debrief period of up to 30 minutes.

The results will not be immediately made available to the candidate.
They will come by post within 10 to 14 days.
This will allow time to gather any information pertaining to a previous cognitive or physical assessment.

There are three possible results: The senior might pass the driving test with flying colours, be required to do another road test because of cumulative infractions, or lose the driving privilege because of dangerous actions and/or health concerns.
There is an appeal process.
The above-mentioned senior is a real person.
She has already been through this process once.
She passed this test about two years ago, but not without significant stress and anxiety prior to the ordeal.

She had several legitimate concerns, not the least of which was the fee charged by her doctor.
The doctor deserves to be paid for this service. No one disputes this.
She believes the government ministry demanding this test procedure should pay for the medical appointment.

I wholeheartedly agree.

The stress created by the lag time between the first notification of the demand and conclusion of the process was far too long for this senior.
It was a six- to eight-week duration.
If an inexperienced teen driver can be tested in 45 minutes, why must an experienced senior be subjected to a 90-minute emotional roller-coaster?

Some professional driving tests are conducted in less than 90 minutes.
Why are seniors being tested when there are drivers with multiple blamable crashes and traffic tickets escaping the same fate?
Is this blatant age discrimination?
Why is she being singled out, when her driving record is impeccable?
Why are doctors put in the position of being government agents?

Why does she have to wait for a comprehensive report on her driving skill and safety to be combined with the cognitive and physical report of the doctor?
If the driving-test results were positive and rendered at test time, as are all other test results, would that not be a better way of reducing the anxiety?

Should seniors get a copy of the cognitive and physical reports of the doctor?

Questions remain.

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