Stressful DriveABLE bites the dust

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Starting next spring, potentially at-risk seniors will have a new system for determining if they are still allowed to drive.

The new system will be an extended road test, using the driver’s own vehicle, with an ICBC driver examiner directing a series of driving tasks with increasing complexity.
Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth announced the new system to replace the touch-screen computer test called DriveABLE that many seniors found complicated and stressful.

The new examination will take longer, 90 minutes instead of 75, to test for cognitive impairment and other medical concerns. It will include a break in the middle where the tester will provide feedback about driving performance.

What the province calls “enhanced road assessment” can be required due to a doctor’s report of a medical condition, a police report of an accident or reports of a previous on-road assessment.

“The vast majority of B.C. seniors successfully pass the driver’s medical exam,” said Isobel Mackenzie, B.C.’s Seniors Advocate. “For those very few who are referred for further testing, the changes being implemented by RoadSafetyBC represent a major improvement from the past system and will make the process much less stressful for those seniors required to undertake the test.”

RoadSafetyBC evaluated the driving fitness of 170,000 people in 2016, and 3,000 of them were referred for an ICBC reassessment. Of those, 1,000 completed the DriveABLE test.

A seniors advocate is praising changes to the way BC licenses older drivers, but says the system is still unfair in many ways.

Gudrun Langolf, of the Council of Senior Citizens Organizations of BC, says the DriveABLE test  cause of considerable anxiety for many seniors.

"Many of the seniors didn't have access to touch-screen computers in their own homes… not all of them, in any event. They may not have access to any computers at all. It's a difficult situation when you're confronted with buttons you have to push in a certain sequence, and so on."

While she is happy about that change, she still questions why there's an arbitrary age for drivers to face greater scrutiny in the first place.

"Seniors are not the folks who are misbehaving on the road," she says. "There are lots of other people, in all generations. Just because you age, and have a few deficits, doesn't mean you're unsafe."

Langolf also takes issue with how many over-80 seniors must pay anywhere from $90 to $180 for the exam carried out by a doctor.

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