When it comes time for skills of senior drivers to be re-examined

Senior driver re-examination

I am often asked to write on the topic of senior driver re-examinations when there is a crash where an older driver has mistaken the gas pedal for the brake pedal and collided with a building.

People are concerned that many members of this easily identified segment of our society shouldn't be on the road.

The reality is somewhat different. Many times during my (RCMP) service, I encountered younger drivers who fell into the same category for one medical reason or another. All are treated equally under the Guides for Determining Medical Fitness to Drive, established by the B.C. Medical Association.

Drivers of any age who are possible candidates for re-examination may be identified by police, medical professionals, or family and friends to RoadSafetyBC (formerly the Superintendent of Motor Vehicles). The reports may not be made anonymously and the report information is available to the driver being reported.

Only medical professionals are obligated by law to report drivers who fail to obey their caution to stop driving.

When the report is not made by a medical professional, RoadSafetyBC will evaluate the circumstances and if necessary require the suspect driver to undergo a medical exam.

Senior drivers are sent notifications of pending medical exams at age 79 by RoadSafetyBC. If (an older) driver does not have a family doctor, now is the time to prepare by finding a medical professional who can complete the exam form with them.

The mandatory medical examinations for fitness begin at age 80 in British Columbia. The next exam occurs at age 85 and then recur every second year after that, unless a problem is identified that would indicate a shorter time period is necessary.

In 2019, 66,000 seniors were required to complete a DMER. Of that group, 4,800 were referred to ICBC for an Enhanced Road Assessment (ERA). Of the 3,450 drivers who took the test, 2,070 passed.

Depending on the result, the driver may be limited by restrictions on their driver's licence or their driving privileges may end. Common restrictions include not driving at night, not driving faster than a prescribed speed or not driving outside a radius of a certain number of kilometres from the place they reside.

RoadSafetyBC says we are outliving our ability to drive safety by about 10 years and some of us choose to continue to drive even when we are aware we are unsafe. Rather than wait for the DMER or ERA, it is worthwhile to plan to stop driving rather than face a sudden stop when your driving privileges come to an end.

This article is written by or on behalf of an outsourced columnist and does not necessarily reflect the views of Castanet.

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About the Author

Tim Schewe is a retired constable with many years of traffic law enforcement experience. He has been writing his column for most of the 20 years of his service in the RCMP.

The column was 'The Beat Goes On' in Fort St. John, 'Traffic Tips' in the South Okanagan and now 'Behind the Wheel' on Vancouver Island and here on Castanet.net.

Schewe retired from the force in January of 2006, but the column has become a habit, and continues.

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The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

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