Frank Harding, 98, sits in his Volvo in Courtenay. (The Canadian Press)

B.C. takes new approach to testing older drivers

The Enhanced Road Assessment program was introduced in March and replaced the DriveABLE program

Frank Harding is 98 years old and most days he drives his 1990 Volvo sedan to the Comox Recreation Centre where he works out.

One summer, the resident of Courtenay, said he drove across Canada four times from Vancouver Island to New Brunswick to visit relatives, although he doesn’t drive that much any more.

But Harding said he recently faced the prospect of losing his driver’s licence under a revamped driver reassessment program geared at drivers in B.C. once they reach 80 years old, which has raised questions about age discrimination.

Harding, who learned to drive tractors on family farms and trucks during the Second World War, said he was told to take a road test after undergoing a government-ordered driving fitness exam by his doctor.

“I went and I didn’t do so good on my medical,” said Harding. “So, he wanted me to have a road test, so I went and had a road test and I came through with flying colours.”

In March, the B.C. government introduced its Enhanced Road Assessment program, which is the second stage of its fitness testing program for driver’s licences. It replaced the former DriveABLE program, which drew criticism from seniors for its reliance on computer tests and road tests in unfamiliar vehicles.

READ MORE: B.C. seniors to get new driving assessment

RoadSafetyBC, the government agency responsible for road safety, mandates every person at age 80, and every two years following, must undergo a Driver Medical Examination Report. The report serves as the primary tool for the assessment of conditions that may affect someone’s fitness to drive.

Harding, who has been through several driver fitness exams since he turned 80, said this was the first time he had to take a road test. He agreed it was time to retest his skills, but he said his life would have changed if he lost his licence.

“I think it’s a good idea,” he said. “I think it’s a very good thing.”

B.C.’s seniors advocate Isobel Mackenzie said the new testing program is less daunting for seniors, but she is concerned about targeting drivers just because they are 80 years old.

“Why are we doing it based on age and who picked age 80?” she asked.

Driving regulations based on age vary across Canada.

In Alberta, drivers 75 and older must file a medical report from their doctor every time they renew their licence. There are no age restrictions in Saskatchewan, Manitoba, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island or the territories.

Ontario has a Licence Renewal Program that starts at 80. In Quebec, drivers must submit a physician’s report when renewing their licence at age 75, age 80 and every two years following.

Steve Wallace, a long-time owner of a driving instruction business, said the new program in B.C. is much more comfortable for seniors who can now take the exam in their own vehicles and no longer face the test on a computer.

But why not look at a driver’s record rather than age when considering testing for fitness, he said.

“When every other segment of society is judged on their record, then this group of people should be judged on their record,” he said. “There’s an extreme prejudice against seniors. This is blatant age discrimination.”

Last year, about 3,450 drivers who were 80 and over took the previous DriveABLE assessment. Of those drivers, 1,400 were found medically fit to drive and 550 were found medically unfit and had their licences cancelled. Another 1,250 drivers had their licences cancelled for non-compliance and 250 voluntarily surrendered their licence, the RoadSafetyBC data says.

Mackenzie said the numbers of drivers voluntarily surrendering their licences increases as they age.

At 65 years old, 95 per cent of drivers have their licences, but at age 84 only 34 per cent of people have their driver’s licences, she said.

Dirk Meissner, The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

Grim situation in coming year for northwest, B.C. fisheries

Annual post-season review in Prince Rupert informs DFO on how to manage 2019 fishing season

Council to host public hearing on cannabis sales zone

A look ahead to tonight’s Prince Rupert City council meeting

Rainmakers wait out storm in Vancouver

Prince Rupert basketball team mentally prepare for home opener at Charles Hays gym on Friday

Another windstorm expected Monday, causing ferry delay

With another windstorm expected to hit Haida Gwaii on Monday afternoon, BC… Continue reading

Nurses wanted, Northern Health promotes Prince Rupert in new video

There are 38 nursing job positions available in the area

Prince Rupert Rampage host Teddy Bear night

Prince Rupert Rampage teamed up with the Salvation Army to give back this weekend

Shop Prince Rupert is back

These businesses are all taking part in the Shop Prince Rupert event until December 21 at noon

Federal government plans examination of coerced sterilization

The Liberals have been pressed for a rapid response to recent reports on the sterilizations

Huitema, Cornelius named 2018 Canadian Youth International Players of the Year

Huitema was captain of Canada’s fourth-place team at this year’s FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup

Canada not slowing emissions from oil and gas: environmental groups

New report released at the United Nations climate talks in Poland

Liberal Party moves Trudeau fundraiser from military base

The fundraiser is scheduled for Dec. 19, with tickets costing up to $400

Pipeline protesters arrested at B.C. university

Three protesters were arrested after TRU property allegedly vandalized with red paint

Goodale to ‘examine’ transfer of Rafferty to medium-security prison

Michael Rafferty was sentenced to life in prison in 2012 in the kidnapping, sexual assault and first-degree murder of Tori Stafford

‘Abhorrent’ condition of autistic B.C. boy shows flaws in care system: report

‘Charlie’ was underweight and ‘covered in feces’ when he was removed from his mom’s care

Most Read