This past Wednesday, April 4 Columbia River-Revelstoke MLA Norm Macdonald met with Invermere’s seniors to address concerns on the reality’s of the DriveABLE program.
DriveABLE is an independent company contracted by the government to assess a senior citizen’s ability to drive.
Seniors over the age of 80 receive a letter from the Superintendent of Motor Vehicles which indicates they need to go to a doctor who will then determine if they need to take the DriveABLE program or not, and if they do not respond within a month they lose their licences.
The program is a series of tests including a driving test to determine cognitive ability of the driver and a computer test to determine reaction time, and it has recently been the subject of much scrutiny.
Senior citizens in British Columbia, and MLAs alike have raised a number of complaints about what seems to some like a fixed test.
Among these complaints is the price, to take the DriveABLE test you have to pay a fee of $300 plus HST, which is not an option for some seniors on a fixed budget, and in light of the cost of a ticket for driving without a licence some seniors are opting for the latter.
“If you drive without a driver’s licence its a $250 fine which is cheaper than a driving test,” said Buzz Harmsworth, local senior.
Another complaint is that the test itself is engineered for seniors to fail.
A lot of seniors are not computer savvy, and a large portion of the program involves touch screen computers which some seniors have had no contact with until the day of the test.
“I don’t think it’s just, I really think it’s degrading for anyone to be put up against the unknown,” said Jane Jefferson, who recently took her 90-year-old father to take the test.
Accessibility is also a huge issue when discussing the DriveABLE program, testing centres are only available to East Kootenay residents in Kelowna or Nelson, which overlaps with financial concerns.
A drive to Kelowna means money for gas, food, and in some cases a hotel room, seniors on a fixed budget cannot afford these large costs.
Macdonald and the roughly 30 seniors in attendance at the Invermere Community Hall discussed their growing concerns at great length and came to the conclusion that DriveABLE is unfair to seniors and it needs to change.
Although Macdonald feels that there should be some way to determine a senior citizen’s eligibility to drive he does not feel the DriveABLE program should be that determining factor.
“None of us believe that any person should be allowed to continue to drive if they can no longer do so safely. And we all accept that we need to have a way to ensure that drivers’ abilities are assessed as they age. But people in this area will not accept that seniors should have their licences removed improperly or unfairly. It is the responsibility of government to provide a fair and accurate assessment program for drivers. At present, there is no proof that DriveABLE is meeting this standard,” said Macdonald.