One of most common phone calls I get in my office from seniors right now is concerning a program called DriveAble. Seniors feel targeted and discriminated against stating that the DriveAble testing is unfair in its application and inaccessible for people from rural communities.
DriveAble is a private company that has been hired by the government to provide driver fitness assessments, primarily for seniors. Clearly, we all want to ensure that those who are driving are fit to do so. The seniors who call my office do not want to continue driving if they can no longer do so safely. But they also want to know that the system that judges their competency is both fair and accurate.
DriveAble claims to test a senior’s cognitive ability. It is a test that is done on a specialized computer screen at a DriveAble testing centre. There are 16 DriveAble centres in British Columbia, the closest being in Nelson and Kelowna.
When we think back to when we took our driving test, we simply went down the street or across town to our local driver testing office. And if we failed the first time, we spent a bit more time practising then took the test again. And this still the case for new drivers today.
But seniors who are required to take the DriveAble testing have to find a way to get to Kelowna or Nelson, and they have to bring someone with them who can drive them home if they fail the test and have their licenses revoked on the spot.
Depending on where you live, getting to Kelowna to take the test in the course of one day may not be possible. So the trip also includes the need for a overnight stay and meals, not just for the senior being tested but for the friend or family member who has to come along.
This cost and inconvenience is an unreasonable requirement for rural seniors who are asked to prove that they are fit to drive. And too often, seniors who may be able to continue to drive safely, are choosing to simply give up their license because they cannot get to Kelowna or Nelson at the prescribed time, with an accompanying person, for DriveAble testing.
Again, no one believes that unsafe drivers should be allowed to continue to drive, but I think we can all agree: the process that assesses drivers’ fitness must be equally accessible to all British Columbians.
Norm Macdonald is the MLA for Columbia River – Revelstoke.