Doctors co-opted into ‘war on seniors’
By Steve Wallace
Times Colonist, September 21st 2018
Seniors driving in B.C. are feeling unfairly set upon.
Here is an example of how they are treated differently from any other age group in B.C. Drivers get a notice, by mail, advising them that they need to make an appointment to see a doctor, on or about their 80th birthday.
Sometimes, they get a prior notice that they are going to get a further notice closer to their 80th birthday.
This is redundant at best and intimidating at worst.
The doctor’s visit is meant to determine a senior’s fitness to drive, and can cost the senior anywhere from $100 to $200, depending on the physician.
Why seniors must pay this fee is beyond me.
A fee is charged to gain a privilege, such as a higher class of licence, not to maintain one.
The attendance is mandated by the superintendent of motor vehicles, an assistant deputy-minister.
If this ministry demands such an appointment, for no other reason than the age of a person, then the agency making such a demand should cover the cost.
Most seniors seeing a doctor for this reason have perfectly clean driving records.
They have neither blamable crashes nor traffic violations. They should be exempt from such institutional harassment and unnecessary financial obligation.
How many seniors would be called for an ominous doctor’s appointment if the cost were borne by the superintendent’s office?
I suspect the number would be far fewer and the process would be much more narrow and efficient in scope.
Many seniors take this doctor’s appointment seriously and show up with their driver abstract in hand, their insurance document and a positive letter of reference from an accredited driving education facility.
They come prepared. The doctor will likely do some in-office rudimentary cognitive tests.
If the result is positive, no driving test will be needed.
Some seniors do not show up prepared and do not do well on the cognitive exercises.
They are ordered to take a practical driving test. This relatively new test format is far too long.
The test for all other comparable age groups is 45 minutes. Why is the time allotted for this test appointment 90 minutes?
Added to that is a duty to be at least 15 minutes early for the appointment.
If you include a brief driving warmup for the practical test, along with a drive to the testing facility, the time needed is two to two-and-a-half hours.
Subjecting someone in their 80s to such an arduous timeline is draconian, insensitive and unnecessary, particularly when they might have an impeccable driving record.
On a more positive note, the test is free of charge and is a great improvement from previous efforts to assess seniors’ driving ability.
Past performance is a good indication of future performance. Seniors with exemplary driving records should be exempt from the process.
The authorities should be targeting drivers of all ages who have traffic violations and blamable crashes on their records.
My sympathy lies with the doctors, who are forced to act as agents of the government.
A small minority recommend that all their elderly patients take a road test.
Perhaps these doctors have a great concern for their own liability position.
Others do a very comprehensive in-office cognitive and physical examination.
Still others have a policy of seeking a driving instructor’s assessment before a final report to the provincial authority.
Doctors are not to blame for the war on seniors. They are in many cases unwilling, but co-opted participants.