DriveABLE testing for seniors, previously only available on Vancouver Island or in Vancouver, will soon be accessible in Sechelt and perhaps soon after in Powell River.
The cognitive test, for drivers over 80 years old who have been flagged by their doctor as needing relicensing, will be available on the lower Sunshine Coast possibly by September. The testing service will also likely come to Powell River sometime in the near future, according to a spokesperson at the company.
The new locations come in part due to the work of former politician Ed Steeves, who took up the cause on behalf of local seniors.
“I think I can say we would never have been able to do it without him, and that’s the truth,” said Sechelt resident Barb Robertson. Robertson raised concerns in March about having to travel into Vancouver to take DriveABLE testing to keep her licence after she turned 80.
“He’s been able to talk directly to the people involved and deal with them in a professional, experienced way, which I wouldn’t have been able to do.”
After newspaper articles ran in March about Robertson’s experience, other seniors facing the same testing came forward and started a letter-writing campaign in the hopes of bringing testing to the Coast.
Robertson said that group approached Steeves to have him formalize the effort and push their agenda with the powers that be.
Steeves took on the challenge and picked up the phone to talk with the office of the superintendent of motor vehicles (OSMV) and the British Columbia Automobile Association (BCAA), which administers the testing.
“If people under 80 can have their driving tests administered locally, then people 80 and over should be able to test locally,” Steeves said.
But a new testing site would take some funding, and Steeves said that’s where Powell River-Sunshine Coast MLA Nicholas Simons came in to play as he took the concerns to the BC legislature.
“The involvement of Nicholas was good. He pushed the people who had the money,” Steeves said.
Simons, however, continues to have reservations about the testing itself. In a letter to the Powell River Peak Simons writes that “There is scant independent scientific or academic research to show that this program works” and that he fears “some seniors have had their licence taken away unfairly.” He also questions the need to establish new infrastructure when the facilities needed for driving licensing already exist.
Listening to the complaints of his constituents, Simons still believes that the computerized test is unfair for seniors who may not have any experience with computers. Representatives from DriveABLE have previously stated that anyone can easily take the test, even with no experience using computers, but Simons maintains that “everything about that situation can be unfamiliar and when independence is at stake, stress is compounded.”
In the end, BCAA decided a new testing location will likely be set up in Sechelt on a rotating basis starting in September.
“It is a specialized test,” said David Dunn, director of road safety for BCAA, “so we’re experimenting with the idea of sort of a mobile service for this next period of time until either there’s a consistent demand or some predictability in terms of what the volumes are in the community. So this is a first step. This is at least an interim solution.”
A spokesperson for DriveABLE said that discussions are in the works to have Powell River included into the rotation for the testing, along with Terrace. When testing might start here is still undecided but the spokesperson said that it’s likely to happen in two to three months.
~ With files from the Coast Reporter.