Columbia River Revelstoke seniors spoke loudly and we have clearly listened…

Dear Editor,

I wanted to take this opportunity to thank one of your readers for the thoughtful comments that she posted April 2, 2012 in response to a letter on the democracy that I submitted to you. Toria Long shared a concern about our seniors facing the possibility of losing their licences under the provincial DriveAble program and spoke to the travel that is involved to take the test. DriveAble is the brand name of tests developed through scientific research to asses a person’s cognitive functioning necessary for driving  and is not only applied to senior testing but to anyone a doctor or police may have identified as a candidate. The process consists of a Cognitive Assessment Tool (DCAT) which is an in-office assessment of cognitive abilities essential for safe driving. Cognitive impairment is the number one medical cause of motor vehicle accidents and is why other Canadian provinces and U.S. states have adopted the DriveAble test.  Seniors who have not been recommended to the Superintendent of Motor Vehicles by a doctor or the police will not have to be tested and it is estimated that no more than two percent of all seniors will ever have to take the test.

I, too, shared the concerns outlined by Toria and have met with seniors throughout our riding over the past five months listening to their comments. What I heard from seniors was the DCAT test is intimidating and for those in the Columbia River Revelstoke riding the long trip to a testing centre either in Nelson, Kelowna or with permission from the Office of the Superintendent of Motor Vehicles, a trip to Calgary was very difficult. There is no question that traveling distances is unreasonable and that they are expensive for seniors who may be on fixed incomes.

In response to what I have heard I started working with East Kootenay MLA Bill Bennett and other BC Liberal MLA’s to find solutions to this issue. Our findings were brought to the attention of Solicitor General Shirley Bond and I am very pleased to report she gets it. She lives in northern BC, and has similar concerns and stated that we need to look at ways to better serve seniors who are facing this very difficult circumstance. She recognized that assessment reflects what is considered to be a “very serious medical issue and it’s a very emotional and difficult one for many families”. In response, the government will no longer use the DriveAble test as the sole testing tool and the process will be expanded by enabling seniors to take a road test if they fail the initial assessment. To these changes Minister Bond stated, “we have listened to concerns expressed by our seniors and we are taking action and with our growing seniors population, it is critical that we continue to ensure our streets are safe, while giving seniors the confidence that decisions on their ability to drive is done in the most respectful and thorough manner”.”

To alleviate some of the travel concerns, Minister Bond announced that a new testing centre will be opened in Cranbrook by May 2012 and other locations are being considered. In addition, more mobile testing units are planned to be employed throughout the province that will service communities like Golden and Revelstoke. I have also started to work with local community leaders such as Dee Conklin, Mayor of Radium Hot Springs on creative solutions for local seniors who have lost their licences.  Ideas like creating a community car pooling program that seniors could access to get around town are being discussed. As the BC Liberal candidate for our riding in the next election I am proud of the accomplishments that we have made on this issue and question where our NDP MLA has been in this solution process.  Your government has not only listened but has acted on the behalf of our seniors. Thank you again Toria the thoughtful comments I assure you that myself and the BC Liberal government will continue to monitor the progress of these changes and the effects they are having.

Doug Clovechok
BC Liberal Candidate nominee