The province is acting to address concerns raised by seniors about its DriveABLE program, however MLA Norm Macdonald says it’s driving in the wrong direction.
According to a statement from Justice Minister Shirley Bond, “the changes will ensure that British Columbians can do their driving assessments closer to home and will alleviate the potential anxiety some seniors are experiencing around doing an on-screen assessment.”
The most important change means that a decision regarding a person’s ability to continue driving will not be made solely from an in-office computer assessment. People who fail the computer assessment will be offered a DriveABLE road assessment. The results of the in-office assessment combined with the on-road evaluation and medical information will ensure license decisions are made in the fairest manner possible. The province will pay for the cost of both assessments, the statement said.
Of the 3.1 million B.C. drivers — 84,000 of whom are over the age of 80 — only about 1,500 are referred to take the DriveABLE assessment. People are referred to the superintendent by physicians when they have been identified as having cognitive issues that may hamper their ability to drive safely.
While that may seem fair and reasonable, Macdonald had some real concerns.
“Clearly, the Minister is responding to the large number of seniors across the province who have investigated the DriveABLE program and have stated that they do not feel the test is fair,” he said. “Not only is it wrong to ask seniors to drive such long distances to take the test, we have to be absolutely certain that the test they are taking is accurate.”
Macdonald said DriveABLE’s scientific credentials have not yet been proven and simply allowing DriveABLE to do more testing is not a solution.
“The BC Liberals signed a contract with a private company that has the ability to take away a person’s license even though we do not have adequate proof that the driver fitness tests were developed using the best science,” he said. “To simply increase the amount of testing done by DriveABLE seems to me to be making a bad situation worse.”
Driver fitness testing is a serious issue, with possibly life changing results and it is the responsibility of government to ensure that this process is managed fairly.
“From the start, the implementation of DriveABLE has been flawed, and tinkering around the edges will not make it better.”
However, Bond said her goal is keep streets safe while giving seniors the confidence that decisions on their ability to drive is done in a respectful and thorough manner
“Our goal is to keep drivers on the road as long as it’s safe to do so, and my staff will continue to look for ways to improve this program,” she said. “By offering the DriveABLE on-road assessment in addition to the in-office computer assessment, and by also taking into account the medical referral, the superintendent will be able to make the most informed decision possible around driver fitness.”