Licence taken from B.C. senior deemed fit to drive Driver's complaint upheld by College of Physicians and Surgeons

Originally published on CBC News March 8th, 2011. To go to the CBC News website please click here

A Vancouver senior is criticizing the B.C. government for taking away his driver’s licence despite assessments by doctors who said he is fit to drive.

“Driving has been my bread and butter my whole life, that’s how I made my living,” Robert Dent, 74, told the CBC’s Go Public. “I miss my job. I miss taking care of my family.”

“If you are confused and or have dementia, of course you shouldn’t be driving,” said his wife, Joanne Ogilvie. “But in his case there is nothing wrong. There never was.”

No assessment by reporting doctor

Without seeing Dent or assessing him, the supervising physician, Dr. Elliott Weiss, reported him to B.C.’s Office of the Superintendent of Motor Vehicles (OSMV), which cancelled his licence.

“[Dr. Weiss] didn’t say a word to me. He didn’t say a word to my wife,” Dent said. “When I got the [cancellation] letter I couldn’t believe it, because I didn’t run anybody over with a car; I wasn’t drinking. I felt like a criminal.”

Eventually, Dent was given a five-hour neurological assessment at Vancouver General Hospital. Andrew Woolfenden, the neurologist, again declared Dent fit to drive.

“There are no physical impairments from his stroke that impede his driving ability,” Dr. Woolfenden wrote after the assessment.

A report on the test, which was overseen by a neuropsychologist, says: “Observed memory issues and other isolated findings are unlikely to affect Mr. Dent’s competency to drive … there is no reason, from a neuropsychological perspective, that he should be restricted from driving.”

Nevertheless, the OSMV told Dent last year he would have to take a controversial computer test called DriveABLE before he could take a road test to try to get his licence back.

Dent, who says computers make him very nervous, failed the test.

“It’s intimidating,” said Ogilvie. “He was slow on the button and didn’t do things fast enough.”

Housebound and depressed

Two years after his stroke, Dent is still appealing the OSMV’s decision to revoke his licence. He describes himself as unemployed, housebound and depressed.

“That’s like being in jail for two years. It’s terrible,” Dent said. “Many nights I can’t sleep for thinking how this happened. I miss my job. I miss taking care of my family.”

“It seems like once they’ve got your name they have just decided you are out — and there’s nothing you can do about it,” Ogilvie said.

The DriveABLE computer program has been adopted by several provinces as a uniform way to test people with potential cognitive problems – basic skills needed to drive. It is a touch-screen test, done under supervision. Speed and accuracy are important factors.

Last year, the program was expanded across British Columbia. In centres where it is available, the OSMV requires a person whose licence has been revoked to pass the computer test before they are allowed a road test.

The program has been criticized recently by seniors who complained they are not comfortable enough with computers to be tested on one.