Mar. 19, 2012
DriveABLE band-aid an acknowledgement of Liberal mismanagement of seniors’ driver testing system
Burnaby – Today’s announcement that the Liberals will make changes to the DriveABLE seniors’ driver testing system is another example of the government being forced to acknowledge problems and mismanagement, say the New Democrats.
New Democrat public safety critic Kathy Corrigan was responding to an announcement that the government will finally make some changes to the controversial program that tests the driving skills of seniors.
“Opposition MLAs have worked with seniors in communities throughout B.C. to identify problems with the DriveABLE system and seek solutions. But as with so many issues, there has to be a huge public outcry before the Liberals act to fix very real problems,” said Corrigan. “B.C. seniors have been through a lot of anxiety waiting for the Liberals to take action.”
The details of the announcement are still unclear, however, government has said there will be a few more testing locations and some seniors will be given an alternative testing option to the controversial computer testing system.
Corrigan said the proposed changes seem quite modest given the scope of the complaints raised in constituencies across the province.
“The Liberals threw a system in place that wreaked havoc on communities all over B.C.,” said Corrigan. “I’m not sure the band-aid they placed on the system today will be the fix that’s needed.”
“As more details emerge, we’ll see if the changes are too modest to make a real difference,” said Corrigan. “It would really sell our seniors short if this announcement is more an exercise in communications than an attempt to make seniors’ driving tests fair and reasonable.”
Corrigan said the loss of a driver’s license can be a devastating loss of independence for many drivers.
“While we support driver testing when there is evidence that a driver’s ability to drive safely has become compromised, we believe it is imperative to hold both the contractor and the government to account to ensure the test is a fair and accurate measurement of drivers’ cognitive abilities.”
Corrigan said the official opposition and the public have been asking the Liberals to provide scientific evidence to support DriveABLE as the best system available. “Either no such evidence exists, or the Liberals refuse to release it,” said Corrigan.
Adrian Dix and the New Democrats have heard the many concerns of seniors, most recently at a DriveABLE town hall on March 15 where over 150 people came to discuss their concerns. New Democrats hosted similar town halls in the Cowichan Valley and the Sunshine Coast with equally large showings.
Below are some direct quotes from the BC Government’s media release
March 19, 2012:
“The changes will ensure that British Columbians can do their driving assessments closer to home and will alleviate the potential anxiety some seniors are experiencing around doing an on-screen assessment.”
The most important change means that a decision regarding a person’s ability to continue driving will not be made solely from an in-office computer assessment. People who fail the computer assessment will be offered a DriveABLE road assessment. The results of the in-office assessment combined with the on-road evaluation and medical information will ensure license decisions are made in the fairest manner possible. The Province will pay for the cost of both assessments.
Of the 3.1 million B.C. drivers – 84,000 of whom are over the age of 80 – only about 1,500 are referred to take the DriveABLE assessment. People are referred to the superintendent by physicians when they have been identified as having cognitive issues that may hamper their ability to drive safely.
The Province has responded to seniors concerns, and is taking other steps to consistency and improved client service. In addition to expanding the DriveABLE to provide an on-road assessment for those who fail the in-office computer assessment, the Province will make the following changes:
- The service delivery model will be improved as quickly as possible by reducing the amount of travel for rural B.C. The service will be offered as close to home as possible by allowing more people to benefit from DriveABLE’s regional expansion and additional mobile services.
- Public awareness and an education program will be expanded to:
- Connect with seniors beginning at an earlier age;
- Connect with seniors organizations and families; and,
- Partner with medical professionals and physician groups to develop materials for seniors that helps explain age-related driving issues and medical fitness requirements for drivers over the age of 80, and information about planning for driving retirement.
Research is constantly underway and, in fact, DriveABLE is in the process of being peer reviewed. The government will continue to evaluate the model based on this research, and will continue to look for opportunities to be a leader in enhancing the length of time a senior can drive.
DriveABLE is currently available at 17 centres throughout the province, up from three in 2005. A new centre will open in Cranbrook by early May 2012. Other locations are being considered in addition to the mobile services.”