Victoria addresses concerns of elderly drivers

Drivers on the far side of 80 who fail a computerized test will now be offered a road test before they have to surrender their licence.

Drivers on the far side of 80 who fail a computerized test will now be offered a road test before they have to surrender their licence.Attorney General Shirley Bond announced the road test option Monday after hearing complaints from seniors who lost their privileges based on a test called DriveABLE.”Our goal is to keep drivers on the road as long as it’s safe to do so,” Bond said in a news release. “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.”Of more than three million B.C. drivers — 84,000 of whom are more than 80 — about 1,500 are referred to the superintendent by physicians when they have been identified as having cognitive issues that may hamper their ability to drive safely, according to the province.Gwyn Frayne, an executive member of Support Our Seniors, suggests 80 is nothing more than an arbitrary number. “Certainly our SOS group does not want to see people on the road who shouldn’t be there, but we’ve studied this test and there is no research that we can see that shows that the memory part of the test shows a driving ability,” Frayne said. “We think it’s quite ageist.”The DriveABLE test uses a terminal with a touch screen to measure mental abilities. To test reaction time, the driver holds down a button until a shape appears on either side of the screen, then releases the button and touches the shape as quickly as possible. Another stage tests a driver’s field of vision by simulating pedestrians and traffic signs. The driver decides about a word in the centre of the screen and the location of a target that appears at the same time in a different area of the screen.Frayne said many attendees at SOS meetings who are not computer literate were thrown off by the equipment and failed the test. Most said they have never been in a traffic accident and could still drive until their licence was revoked. Frayne was encouraged by the Province’s willingness to pay the cost of computer and road assessments. Previously, seniors who failed the computer test needed to pay $350 for a second test. Frayne said those on minimum income could not afford the re-test. A new mobile service in the works will help alleviate the “rural problem” in locations such as Black Creek, Merville and Union Bay where Frayne said seniors without driver’s licences become isolated.DriveABLE is in the process of being peer reviewed. A new assessment centre will be opened in Cranbrook, making 18 locations in B.C. Further locations are being considered.— With a file from Tom Fletcher/Black

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