B.C. responds to calls for DriveAble here

Local groups petitions to bring a mandatory seniors' driving test to the Terrace area may have worked.

The city of Terrace and other local groups have petitioned the province to bring a mandatory seniors’ driving test to the Terrace area, and their petitions may prove to be successful.

DriveAble, a provincially mandated testing program for senior drivers whose doctors recommend it, is only available now to area residents via a 600 kilometre trip to Prince George.

That trip is too far, agree Terrace’s city council and members of the Happy Gang Centre here. In light of that, both have recently petitioned B.C.’s Superintendent of Motor Vehicles to bring the testing closer to home.

DriveAble is a two-part test.

The first component is a digital, touch-screen assessment that tests one’s mental fitness as it relates to driving.

The next component is a road test.

“To take the DriveAble exam … a driver would have to be required to have someone drive them to Prince George, incur the expenses of travelling and possibly an overnight stay,” said a report to council recommending the city write a letter to bring the test here, which was sent July 4.

“There’s a cost factor and a convenience factor and a stress factor for seniors,” added councillor Brian Downie at the city council meeting when it was discussed.

Councillor Marylin Davies added after the meeting that bringing the testing here could mean an examiner travels to Terrace on occasion with a portable touch-screen test.

“Having DriveAble assessments available by appointment each month in Terrace would allow residents from across the northwest to access this service without having to drive to Prince George,” the city letter stated.

And with the Happy Gang Centre, Terrace local Kay Derksen collected a petition with 65 signatures requesting the same.

“We thought it would be very sensible to have the test done here,” said Derksen about a meeting had with members of the Happy Gang, some of whom have had to make the trip to Prince George to do the test.

“There were a lot of irate people who had to go through this and they were not pleased,” she said. “Older people are on fixed incomes mostly.”

In response to requests to bring DriveAble testing closer to Terrace, the Office of the Superintendent of Motor Vehicles seems to be on the same page.

“We totally agree that having to drive from your community to Prince George is just too far,” said Stephanie Melvin, deputy superintendent of motor vehicles in B.C.

“We will be doing some northern expansion,” she said.  “I’m just not at liberty to discuss where yet because we’re still working things out.”

Currently, the only other northern testing location is in Dawson Creek.

But not all seniors who turn age 80 are required to do the test, Melvin emphasized, adding that only people whose doctors are concerned about their cognitive ability as it related to driving are required to take the test.

Often these recommendations will come — either directly through a physician or through the motor vehicle office upon receiving a  doctor’s report — after a driver’s medical exam is required every two years at age 80 and onwards.

“Just because you turn age 80 doesn’t mean that you’re doing a DriveAble exam,” said Melvin.

“We try to keep people driving as long as it’s safe to do so.”

Last year, of 3 million drivers in all of B.C., only 1,500 had to do a DriveAble exam, added Melvin.

After a DriveAble exam is recommended, the test must be taken and passed for a person to retain his or her license.

“If the person does not go forward with it within a certain period of time, we would cancel their licence,” said Melvin.