Ageism at heart of B.C. driving rules – North Fraser Chapter Chair Bruce Bird

Ageism shows up in many aspects of seniors lives, including condescension, arbitrary rules of retirement and a general attitude of treating seniors as less than equal.

Unfortunately, ageism also manifests itself in B.C. driving rules for seniors. When B.C. drivers reach age 80, they are mandated to have a medical examination to determine their fitness to drive. According to the letter I received as I approached my 80th birthday, the full cost of the examination is born by the individual. But according to the Motor Vehicle Department website, the Medical Services Plan will cover $75 of the cost. This is only one of the many confusing aspects of B.C.s process.

For many seniors, a drivers licence is their only hope of maintaining an active lifestyle. Public transit, including HandyDART, does not give many the ability to get to medical appointments or recreational and cultural activities in short, to maintain their independence. Many seniors are not well off financially, and the cost of the medical exam (some people told me they paid as much as $200 for the exam) is itself a hardship.

This article was written by Bruce Bird and published by Burnaby Now on March 6th, 2014. To see this article and other related articles on their website, click here.  

Failing the exam results in more time and expense. They must take a cognitive exam on the computer, even if they are computer illiterate or simply intimidated by the computer. Apprehension and confusion do not help to get favourable test results, and there is little evidence to support claims of the tests effectiveness. If they pass the cognitive test, they must take a new driving test.

These rules are based on an outmoded view of seniors. CARP (A New Vision of Aging for Canada) views many of these people as zoomers boomers with zip. They are not content to lounge in their rocking chairs until infirmity puts them in wheelchairs or sends them to an early grave. Zoomers travel extensively, participate in sports and other recreational programs, and contribute to their local communities in many ways. They are the largest group of volunteers, contributing millions of hours of unpaid work to sports organizations, charities, community and health organizations.

Some seniors shouldn’t be driving; some younger people shouldn’t be driving, either. But there must be a more humane way to determine those still fit to drive.

As of April 21st, Ontario’s new rules will weed out unfit drivers while treating seniors with respect and dignity. The new process will include:

1. A vision test.

2. A drivers record review.

3. A short group education session.

4. Two, brief, non-computerized in-class cognitive screening assessments.

5. If necessary, a road test or medical exam.

There will be no additional cost; in the event of failure, any step in the process can be repeated numerous times without additional cost.

Compare this humane process with B.C.s onerous process, including a test conducted by a private company, Drive Able, at considerable cost to the senior. People who have failed this test tell me they are unable to find out what they did wrong or why they failed.

Its time for B.C. to adopt a new vision of aging and to treat seniors with respect and dignity.

The North Fraser chapter of CARP has invited ICBC and the Department of Motor Vehicles to a public meeting in the Scandinavian Centre, 6540 Thomas St. in Burnaby, March 20 from 1 to 3:30 p.m. to explain how senior drivers can keep their licences.

For more information, telephone 778-284-1189 or email CARPNorthFraserChapter

Bruce Bird is the chair of the North Fraser chapter of CARP.

© Burnaby Now


TV Interview: Bruce Bird on B.C. Rules and Older Drivers

Watch Joy TV News coverage of the North Fraser chapter public event on B.C. older driver issues, as well as an interview with chapter chair Bruce Bird by clicking here:

JoytvNews – CARP Seniors and Driving