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

Surrey Memorial patients receive gifts from hospital staff

‘What Matters to You’ wish campaign received $5,000 in funding for project

Dirty chapter of Surrey history detailed in book about Bridgeview’s sewage woes in ’70s

Surrey-raised author’s ‘Mudflat Dreaming’ chronicles Vander Zalm-era debates, and beyond

Surrey LRT decision ‘really sets White Rock back’: mayor

Walker says his focus now is making sure residents can access transit network

OUR VIEW: Elford’s support of budget surprising, considering his history in Surrey

The Doug Elford we knew as an advocate would have opposed budget that doesn’t hire more officers

Clayton townhouse projects sent back to staff over school capacity concerns

‘We’re really stressing out the school systems here’ says Surrey Councillor Steven Pettigrew

MAP: Christmas light displays in Surrey, Langley and beyond

Send us pictures of your National Lampoon-style lit-up homes, nativity scenes or North Pole playlands

Canada ranks 16th on annual gender gap list

This is the second year Canada has placed 16th in the World Economic Forum’s list

VIDEO: Tornado rips through city west of Seattle

Reports indicate five to seven homes damaged in Port Orchard, Wash.

Surrey boy’s birthday wish raises $13,500 for rescued farm animals

Matthew Farden received a large donation from the mister Blake Foundation towards a sanctuary farm.

Trial date postponed for man charged with killing Abbotsford police officer

Oscar Arfmann’s trial pushed back from January to May 2019

Privacy watchdog says legal cannabis buyers should use cash, not credit

Some countries could bar entry to individuals if they know they have purchased cannabis

Emergency task force calls for safe supply of drugs in Vancouver to prevent ODs

Dr. Patricia Daly says more people are dying alone in the city than elsewhere in the province

‘A start:’ Alberta critical of Ottawa’s $1.6B package for ailing energy sector

A further $150 million is to be used for clean growth and infrastructure projects

New B.C. Lions coach DeVone Claybrooks adds eight to coaching staff

DeVone Claybrooks has filled out his staff for the 2019 season

Most Read