Local seniors required to test their driving ability in order to stay behind the wheel no longer have to go great distances to get assessed. As of Friday, April 27, a new DriveABLE centre opened in Cranbrook, meaning drivers in the Columbia Valley no longer have to make the trip to Kelowna or Nelson to determine if they can keep their license upon turning 80-years-old.
The opening of the centre follows on the heels of a major development to the DriveABLE program that was announced in March whereby seniors can now take a road test should they fail the in-office assessment at no additional cost.
“Changes in the DriveABLE BC processes have been implemented and directly address the concerns raised by seniors throughout the province about the DriveABLE in-office assessment,” BC Liberal candidate for the Columbia River Revelstoke riding Doug Clovechok told The Valley Echo in an email. “I am proud of those seniors who took the time to let their government know how they felt about this issues and I am also proud of the BC Liberal government for hearing [their] voices and acting on them.”
A new system assessing elderly drivers was introduced in 2010, which requires drivers to be tested every two years once they reach the age of 80. Based on a doctor’s Driver’s Medical Examination Report (DMER), the Office of the Superintendent of Motor Vehicles (OSMV) decides if a DriveABLE test is necessary, which helps determine if the driver suffers from any cognitive impairment.
On April 4, Columbia River-Revelstoke MLA Norm Macdonald held a meeting with Invermere seniors to address their concerns related to DriveABLE program. The hour-longer touch-screen DriveABLE exam — deemed unfair to those not comfortable with computers — was high on the list of complaints, as was the long distance commute to DriveABLE centres.
“We did not get complaints on the system that existed for seniors until DriveABLE was introduced in 2010, then a whole host of issues when this new program was introduced,” Macdonald told The Valley Echo.
Clovechok held a meeting of his own with seniors on Monday (April 30) who were “surprised and concerned” they didn’t receive the most up-to-date information on the DriveABLE program at their April 4 meeting with Macdonald, Clovechok said.
“My intent was not to have a political meeting but I just want to make sure that they know all of the information and that’s the feedback I got from them,” he said.
In his email, Clovechok stated the OSMV is in the process of contacting drivers who failed the in-office assessment in the six months prior to the changes to invite them to take an on-road evaluation. These drivers will be provided with a three-day temporary license before they take on-road portion of the DriveABLE assessment. For people who failed the in-office assessment more than six months ago, their doctor must submit an updated report for review. If an improved cognitive condition is indicated, they will be offered an on-road assessment. New medical information, such as improvements to a condition or changes to prescription medications will also be considered. Individuals can also appeal licensing decisions.
Despite the new centre in Cranbrook, Macdonald is still critical of the program’s accessibility.
“There is no excuse for not being able to set up a system that communities can access in their own community — we do it for 16-year-olds, we can certainly do it for seniors,” Macdonald told The Valley Echo. “Even if the test was right, get it so that people can take it in Invermere. how difficult is that, to get a screen test in Invermere, and secondly do a road test in Invermere.”
There have been questions about the validity of the test and the government is just now doing a peer review to determine if the test is valid or not, he said.
“To take seniors and… force them into two years where there have been all sorts of accessibility issues and now, two years on entering into a secret contract, they can’t even say with certainty that the test is valid? It is a mess up of the first order,” Macdonald said. “Now they’re scrambling to try to fix it.”
“This is about getting information to a group of people who are really really scared and frustrated.” said Clovechok.