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Election a chance to protest $200 driver’s test for seniors

October 2, 2020


John Horgan speaks at a press conference on Sept. 28, 2020. In the lead-up to the Oct. 24 provincial election, seniors can make their voice heard on the current practice of ordering them to have a doctor assess their fitness to drive when they turn 80, Steve Wallace writes. ADRIAN LAM, TIMES COLONIST


The provincial election will be held on Oct. 24. Why is this important for seniors who wish to retain their driving privilege?

It’s time for every senior to question the wisdom of requiring them to pay about $200 when they are ordered to have a doctor assess their fitness to drive.

This system has been financially unfair for some time. Simple logic would dictate that the ministry — namely the Superintendent of Motor Vehicles — should be footing this bill. If this was the case, there would probably be a greater diligence on the part of the superintendent’s staff to identify those seniors who should be retested and undergo a selective scrutiny now being so unnecessarily hoisted upon all 80-year-olds.

Letters, emails and any other form of correspondence that I receive reference a litany of travesties aimed at our seniors.

The process starts when seniors receive a letter telling them they will receive another letter ordering them to go to a doctor for an assessment of their fitness to drive. Many seniors assume this first letter is meant to warn them of the impending unfair system to which they will be subjected. Is this first letter’s intent information or intimidation?

Now, before people start to blame the present provincial government for this situation, it should be noted that the previous government did nothing to remedy this unfairness for about a decade. The blame can be squarely placed on the shoulders of both previous governing parties, not to mention the recent third-party complicity in the matter, leaving seniors green with objection. This is a marked difference from being blue about the whole situation. By the way, nothing rhymes with orange!

There is no need to have every 80-year-old driver go to a doctor’s office. It would be relatively simple to identify those seniors who have had blamable crashes or driving violations. Those are the people who should be targeted for a retest. This would ensure seniors are treated like everyone else.

Now back to the doctor’s office. There are several cognitive tests that doctors and/or their staff have been directed to administer. They include a memory test, an identification of figures and a paper-based matching task. Doctors also test eyesight and conduct a physical.

Now for the ridiculously long assessment time allocated to road testing those seniors in the 80 and beyond age group. It takes 45 minutes behind the wheel to test a teen driver candidate. It takes 90 minutes to test a senior!

This is a long time for anyone, let alone a senior. For a senior who wisely does at least a half hour or more pre-test familiarization with the testing area, this timeline becomes more than ridiculous.

The demand that all seniors be 15 minutes early for their appointments adds insult to injury. This whole process becomes more like a three-hour turnaround from home and back.

The pandemic has ruled out a mass protest of this situation, so what can seniors do?

Contact every candidate in the coming provincial election. Make them aware of the unfairness of this situation. Hold the incumbents accountable and get a commitment to take a sober second look at this draconian process, which many people believe is a violation of the federal Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

Maybe it’s time for baby boomers to support seniors. After all, you are next!

Steve Wallace is the owner of Wallace Driving School on Vancouver Island. He is a former V.P. of the Driving Schools Association of the Americas, a registered B.C. teacher and a U of Manitoba graduate.

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