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Steve Wallace: Enhanced test a new road for seniors

seniors
B.C. has had a new Enhanced Road Test for senior drivers for the past month. Steve Wallace looks at what has changed and how it can affect seniors facing the potential loss of their licences. (via Mandi Wright/MCT)

The Enhanced Road Test (known as the ERA) for senior drivers wishing to retain their driving privilege has been a reality for the past month. Here are some initial observations.

Seniors want to know whether they have passed or failed the road test immediately after the road test has concluded. They want the same treatment as all other drivers being tested, regardless of the class of licence for which they are being tested. This is not the case in the ERA.

The Superintendent of Motor Vehicles has contracted ICBC to do a practical test with cognitive, motor and sensory components. At the end of the test, the ICBC examiner will give a summary of any problems or errors that have occurred during the drive, but will not announce a pass or fail.

This road test result will be sent to Road Safety B.C., which is a relatively new name now being used by the superintendent. Road Safety will add this test result to the file of the senior being tested, and a decision to allow the senior to keep a driver’s licence will be made. The file could contain information garnered from the medical community, public or family input, crash and infraction history and any other pertinent information.

Many seniors do not know that such a file exists, and are not aware of their right to see the information and dispute the contents. It does seem odd that someone in government will decide on a driver’s fitness to drive based on of evidence not supplied to the senior. How is erroneous information to be disputed?

Seniors must wait for up to two weeks to get the result of these driving tests. During that time, they can drive if their licence is returned to them at the end of the road test. Some will get an interim licence, which will allow them to drive with another licensed driver in the vehicle. Others will have the licence held in abeyance until word arrives from the superintendent.

These three actions speak volumes to the predictable result of the road test. The latter probably means the loss of a licence, and the two former situations mean the licence will likely be retained or another test is necessary. Here is an overview of the new road test.

The examiner will go over any shortcomings with the senior after a short five- to 10-minute residential-area drive. This drive is preceded by a refresher session on road signs and an eye test. The examiner could, for instance, suggest such things as better shoulder checks and perhaps more attention to complete stops and special speed zones. The cognitive components of the initial session include multiple-step directions and adjusting safety and comfort controls of the vehicle.

Two 20-minute sessions follow. Multiple-step directions and a reverse-route task is also included. It is a simple two- or three-direction instruction to return the way one arrived at a destination. This is meant to satisfy the further cognitive component of the ERA. A highway drive might be included.

Driving instructors, with the permission of their senior clients, are permitted to be debriefed after the driving portion of the ERA. Do we receive the same courtesy from Drive Safe B.C. when it comes to the senior’s file and the supporting documents within? Do we have to supply an affidavit from our clients to gain access?

In the past three weeks, four seniors who failed the ERA have contacted me concerning their situation. They had all taken driving refresher sessions in preparation for the new ERA. Their reports by their driving instructors were very positive, yet they failed and were asked to surrender their licences.

Stay tuned: It ain’t over till it’s over.

– Steve Wallace is the owner of Wallace Driving School on Vancouver Island. He is a former vice-president of the Driving Schools Association of the Americas, a registered B.C. teacher and a University of Manitoba graduate.