The goal is the same but the test is more “robust.”
That’s how ICBC’s manager of driver licensing training describes the new test rules that rolled out last month for drivers aged 80 and older.
Ben Bowcott said the Crown agency wants senior commuters behind the wheel to be independent for as long as medically possible. But it also wants them and those around them to be safe on the roads as the population gets older.
The new test rules came into effect March 5 after ICBC’s contract for cognitive testing with DriveABLE ended.
Bowcott said ICBC worked with RoadSafetyBC (formerly the Office of the Superintendent of Motor Vehicles) and an expert from the GF Strong Rehabilitation Centre in Vancouver to build a new framework for seniors’ driving assessments for a Class 5 licence that ensures senior drivers:
• have a doctor’s note (or a driver medical examination report) submitted every two years to RoadSafetyBC to prove they are medically competent to drive;
• undertake a longer on-road test (or an enhanced road assessment), if needed, and in their own vehicle;
• and have RoadSafetyBC, not the licensing office, determine if they have passed or failed the test.
The test changes, made under and Minister of Public Safety and Solicitor General Mike Farnworth, come after years of pressure from seniors' groups that complained the computerized components of the driving tests were unfair.
Bowcott said drivers of all ages face challenges, with the urban landscape changing and becoming faster, and new traffic signs being installed, sometimes with new symbols.
But among other health issues, “as people age, they start to lose some of their mobility, like to turn their neck more than 90 degrees,” he said. “That’s a concern if you’re on the road.”
Candice Critchlow, manager of the Coquitlam RCMP community police station in downtown Port Coquitlam, has organized an April 24 information session for senior drivers in the Tri-Cities because of her own grandmother’s story.
“The message hit home to me,” Critchlow said, “because she also wants to be self-reliant.”
She added, “It can be a difficult topic to bring up but the aim is how we can keep their independence in a positive way.”
Bowcott said ICBC is working with the Council of Senior Citizens’ Organizations of B.C. to roll out the program in other cities.
• The senior driver re-exam info session is Tuesday, April 24 from 12:30 to 2 p.m. in the Green Room at PoCo recreation complex (2150 Wilson Ave.). There’s no cost to attend but registration is required by visiting experienceit.ca (code #29294).