As many of you will know, one of the biggest issues for seniors right now is the implementation of the DriveABLE driver testing requirements for seniors in British Columbia. I’ve spoken with hundreds of seniors in the region who have real concerns about the accessibility and the validity of the test.
DriveABLE is a private company that has been contracted by the BC government to test seniors’ fitness to drive. The first step in the testing procedure is a touch-screen computer test. The second is a driving test in a company vehicle. And neither of these tests are available in the communities I represent.
Seniors are required to go to Kelowna, Nelson, and now Cranbrook for these tests, and the tests do not take place on the same day.
From the start, the government put in place a testing system that placed an unfair burden on seniors to travel a great distance, often overnight at their own expense, to take an assessment test that has not been proven to be based on good science. And a failure to pass this test resulted in the withdrawal of a person’s license to drive. In some cases, seniors simply had to give up their licenses because they could not afford the trip to Kelowna.
It is too long a story to lay out in this piece all the twists and turns of how the government chose this private company to contract this service, and the government’s complete mismanagement of this program, but I do want to respond to some claims that have been recently made by local BC Liberal supporters.
The latest talking points from the BC Liberals have a local spokesperson saying that the government has responded to the concerns raised by seniors about the DriveABLE computer testing program. I have to say that that is categorically untrue.
Seniors still have to travel long distances to take this test. While every young person who wishes to get a drivers license has access to testing in their own community, seniors still have to drive up to three hours to a testing location.
Seniors are still being required to take a drivers fitness test that has not been scientifically proven. The government has only recently said that they are requiring a peer-review of the program, something that most would assume had been done long before any government agency would have signed a multi-million dollar contract.
For the BC Liberals to say that they have listened to seniors is an insult. Every concern raised by seniors was self-evident, and these basic issues should have been resolved before any government signed a contract.
Seniors in this area are not fooled by the BC Liberal government’s tinkering around the edges. Seniors know that the changes to BC’s driver assessment program for seniors was misguided from the start, and that a full-scale change needs to made to make it right.
While none of us want unsafe or unqualified drivers on the road, we all believe that every adult, regardless of their age, should be entitled to an assessment process that is equally accessible and based on the best science.
Norm Macdonald is the MLA for Columbia River–Revelstoke.