The Canadian Association of Retired Persons has asked B.C. Justice Minister Suzanne Anton to scrap regulations that force elderly drivers to submit to cognitive tests and road tests.
“It’s time for British Columbia to abolish special rules for senior drivers and treat all age groups equally. Ageism is an outmoded concept that has no place in B.C. We urge you to treat seniors with dignity and respect by eliminating special rules for senior drivers,” the association states in its submission to the minister.
Bruce Bird, chair of the North Fraser chapter of CARP, wrote the letter on behalf of all B.C. members. He is a fellow of the Insurance Institute of Canada and has worked in the insurance industry for 21 years.
“The rules about senior driver re-examination are unfair and discriminatory,” Bird says. “They are based on an outmoded concept of seniors as old and feeble, content to lounge in their rocking chairs until infirmity puts them in a wheelchair or sends them to an early grave.
“This old image no longer applies. Most of today’s seniors travel extensively, participate actively in sports and other recreational programs and contribute to their local communities in many ways.”
The submission claims that testing contractor DriveABLE’s tests are “unreliable and punitive.” The Edmonton-based company tests all seniors over 80.
“Almost half of all DriveABLE test results are inconclusive, according to recent scientific studies,” Bird claims.
He says DriveABLE’s “self-conceived validity studies are akin to pharmaceutical companies declaring their drugs are safe without any regulatory oversight.”
Some of the stories CARP chapters have heard are heart-wrenching. When seniors lose their driver’s licences, they lose their independence and often feel isolated. They find it difficult to go to medical appointments and virtually impossible to attend the social events that keep them alive and alert, the submission states.
Bird says ICBC gives drivers over 65 a discount on car insurance because their claims costs are lower. The U.S. Insurance Institute for Highway Safety released a report last year that showed the rate of decline in traffic accidents is greater for seniors than middle-aged drivers.
The IIHS study also showed that accident rates per mile travelled also declined faster for drivers 70 and older than for 35 to 54 year olds.
The submission notes that Ontario recently considered using DriveABLE tests to determine seniors’ driving competence, but, following a request from CARP, reconsidered.
“Senior drivers as a group should be treated the same as other age groups of drivers. All bad drivers should be treated harshly. But all good drivers should be treated kindly, regardless of their age,” Bird says.