Chilliwack seniors vent about driving test

More than 150 came to a town hall in Chilliwack, with some venting about the DriveABLE program and its impact on their lives.

  • Mar. 21, 2012 7:00 p.m.

The town hall meeting was a sea of grey-haired citizens in Chilliwack Thursday, with some experiencing a profound sense of loss.

It was the loss of driving freedom for some, after decades of safety behind the wheel.

More than 150 people showed up to Tzeachten Hall, and several rose to take the microphone to vent about the controversial DriveABLE program in B.C. and its impact on their lives.

DriveABLE is a tool to identify drivers over 80 whose medical conditions may make it unsafe to for them to drive.

NDP public safety critic Kathy Corrigan told the crowd she and other MLAs had personally taken certain sections of the controversial DriveABLE test to see what it was like — and passed.

“But it wasn’t easy,” said Corrigan, Burnaby-Deer Lake MLA.

Many of the attendees had probing questions and complaints about DriveABLE, administered by the Office of the Superintendent of Motor Vehicles.

Only about 15 per cent pass the in-office assessment, and that’s reportedly because the family doctor has already identified some cognitive issues. Another 45 per cent of the results are deemed “inconclusive” and required to take the on-road test.

Several of the speakers who attended said they drove professionally before retirement, and at least one was a pilot. They found out only about 60 per cent of drivers actually pass the on-road portion.

The shock of failing the test and dealing with the life-changing loss of their driver’s licence came up more than once.

“I don’t think anyone in this room would want people who should not be driving to continue to drive,” said Corrigan. “But we want to make sure that the process is fair and that the test is fair.”

She said she’d be taking the stories from Chilliwack and beyond directly to the provincial minister in charge, Justice Minister Shirley Bond, and urged attendees to write their MLAs, the minister and the Superintendent of MV.

Minister Bond has said in relation to DriveABLE that it represents: “the best assessment” they have to determine cognitive ability behind the wheel.

Corrigan said took got a chance to experience part of the on-screen test when a DriveABLE unit was brought into the provincial legislature. Although no specific computer experience is needed according to program administrators, the MLA said computer-related anxiety or stress suffered by some elders is enough to make them “freeze up” when using the touch screen and pushing buttons.

Others described unfamiliarity with Abbotsford roads, or the designated test car, since many come from Chilliwack, Agassiz-Harrison, Hope and further afield.

Testing is always done in an urban setting, which is sometimes challenging for rural dwellers, and if they fail, they can be “stuck” without access to any services.

One attendee came all the way to Chilliwack from Merritt to describe the hardships the testing could create if she lost her licence, living 100 miles from “any place.”

Another felt blindsided by losing his licence.

“When you go into that office you feel very shook up,” said one man after the MLA had spoken. “I didn’t know what was coming. I failed it.”

There were complaints about the high cost of the test, access issues, and the need to for more scientific rigour in developing the test, said Corrigan.

“Fail the test outright, and you’re done,” she said. “There’s no appeal process.”

People can take the test again — but that’s at their own expense, and the OSMV would have to consider granting the licence again.

“I’ve heard from folks who went to one location and failed, and then went to another place and passed,” she said.

Octogenarians who pass, hold onto their licences, and then have to be tested again in two years.

One senior who just turned 80 called it “age discrimination” and said memorizing 10 words, which is part of the test, “has nothing to do with driving!” which elicited a sudden burst of applause from the crowd.

“They’re penalizing the wrong people,” he said.

One attendee in their 60s said they’d fail the test if they had to remember 10  items, and argued it’s unrelated to driving.

“So all these drivers who failed, didn’t really fail the test, the test failed them.”

There should be an appeal process, Corrigan suggested.

NDP Chilliwack-Hope candidate Gwen O’Mahony rose at the meeting to speak on behalf of a resident who took the test and failed.

She held up a photocopy of his test results where the word “impaired” was ticked off, and shared the sense of shame and frustration he said he felt as a result of that medical terminology.

A rep from CBI Health Group of Chilliwack, Nicki Bullock, was in the room to respond to a few concerns. She explained that CBI is one of the service providers contracted for DriveABLE testing, and noted CBI is planning to expand its services to Chilliwack.

“The video portion does need updating,” she acknowledged, which was in response to seniors’ criticism about the screen visibility.

Making use of practice sessions before taking the test is highly encouraged, and bringing someone with them is recommended. Take the time to practise.

“Do not feel rushed,” Bullock said. “We’d love for people to schedule a time to come in for a session. We don’t want to be the bad guys.”

Corrigan advised people to express their concerns in writing to their MLA, to Justice Minister Shirley Bond and to the Superintendent of Motor Vehicles.

A member of the Council of Senior Citizens Organizations of British Columbia was in attendance at the town hall meeting, explaining the senior advocacy work they have been doing.

“What a horrible message we give our seniors with this,” said COSCO BC Director Lorraine Logan. The group will be meeting shortly with the Superintendent of MV and to urge them at least to make the process more respectful.

jfeinberg@theprogress.com

twitter.com/CHWKjourno

Just Posted

A student prepares to throw a plate full of whipped cream at principal Jim Egdcombe’s face as vice principal Devin Atkins watches as part of a fundraiser at Leary Integrated Arts and Technology elementary on Friday, June 11, 2021. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress)
The pied principals: Chilliwack elementary staff get messy for charity

Cops for Cancer fundraiser saw kids ‘pie the principal’ at Leary elementary in Chilliwack

Chilliwack potter Cathy Terepocki (left) and Indigenous enhancement teachers Val Tosoff (striped top) and Christine Seymour (fuchsia coat), along with students at Vedder middle school, look at some of the 500-plus pinch pots on Thursday, June 10 made by the kids to honour the 215 children found at Kamloops Indian Residential School. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress)
Chilliwack students make hundreds of tiny clay pots in honour of 215 Indigenous children

‘I think the healing process has begun,’ says teacher about Vedder middle school project

Chilliwack cocaine trafficker Clayton Eheler seen with a tiger somewhere in Asia in 2014. Eheler was sentenced to nine years jail in 2018, but was released on bail in October 2020 pending his appeal of conviction.(Facebook)
Director of civil forfeiture seeks $140,000 from Chilliwack drug dealer’s father-in-law

Clayton Eheler’s father-in-law Ray Morrissey caught with money in Fort St. John by B.C.’s gang unit

Jordyn Huitema plays for the Canadian national women’s soccer team. (Soccer Canada photos)
Chilliwack’s Jordyn Huitema and Canada battle Czechs to 0-0 draw

Huitema’s national women’s soccer squad played a friendly match against the Czechs in Spain

Hutch Hotels Ltd., which owned the former Alder Inn (which was demolished in November 2020), is among the defendants in a lawsuit related to an alleged impaired-driving crash in January 2017. The civil suit also names S & L Kitchen and Bar in Abbotsford. (Black Press file photo)
Two Fraser Valley bars named in lawsuit related to alleged impaired-driving crash

S & L Abbotsford and Alder Inn being sued by passenger in 2017 rollover collision

t
How to tell if a call from ‘CRA’ is legitimate or a scam

Expert says it’s important to verify you really are dealing with the CRA before you give out any info

Unofficial holidays: Here’s what people are celebrating for the week of June 13 to 19

Flag Day, Garbage Man Day, International Panic Day all coming up this week

British Columbia-Yukon Community News Association’s 2021 Ma Murray Awards were handed out during a virtual ceremony on Friday, June 10. (Screen grab)
Black Press Media winners take gold at B.C. and Yukon journalism awards

Publications received nods in dozens of categories

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau greets campers while visiting McDougall, Ont. on Thursday, July 19, 2018. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn
71% of B.C. men say they’d prefer to go camping with Trudeau: survey

Most British Columbians with plans to go camping outdoors say they’d prefer to go with Trudeau or Shania Twain

Members of the Department of Fisheries and Oceans’ Marine Mammal Response Program rescued an adult humpback what that was entangled in commercial fishing gear in the waters off of Entrance Island on Thursday, June 10. (Photo courtesy Marine Mammal Response Program)
Rescuers free humpback ‘anchored’ down by prawn traps off Vancouver Island

Department of Fisheries and Oceans responders spend hours untangling whale

A Comox Valley shellfish operator pleaded guilty and was fined $10,000 in provincial court in Courtenay earlier this year. Record file photo
B.C. clam harvester fined $10,000 for Fisheries Act violations

Charges against three others were stayed in Courtenay Provincial Court

Frank Phillips receives a visit from his wife Rena at Nanaimo Seniors Village on their 61st wedding anniversary, March 31, 2020. Social visits have been allowed since COVID-19 vaccination has been offered in all care homes. (Nanaimo News Bulletin)
B.C. prepares mandatory vaccination for senior care homes

180 more cases of COVID-19 in B.C. Friday, one more death

Lorraine Gibson, 90, received a COVID-19 immunization at the South Surrey Park and Ride vaccination clinic. (File photo: Aaron Hinks)
Surrey has had 25% of B.C.’s total COVID-19 cases

Surrey recorded 4,012 cases in May

Most Read