By Travis PatersonBy Angele CowanBlack Press
Bike laws, cell phone distraction and the headache of mandatory medical exams were just a few of the hot topics presented to seniors at Gordon Head United Church on Thursday, when drivers gathered for the latest Connecting Seniors speaking series.
About 50 audience members listened intently as Steve Wallace of Wallace Driving School covered standard driving laws as well as driving concerns specific to seniors in the community.
“I would say cell phone usage in the car is the biggest change we’ve seen,” said Dianne Swanson, who came with husband Wayne.
The two live close to the church and walked to the event, but are life-long drivers.
“There’s a lot to reminded of, such as shoulder checking for bikes,” said Wayne, who’s been driving 55 years.
Neither Wayne nor Dianne have received “the letter,” as Wallace calls it, which mandates drivers aged 80 and older take a driver’s medical examination with a physician. Depending on the results of that exam, drivers may be subject to a road test to retain their license.
North Saanich resident John McLeod received “the letter” from the Superintendent of Motor Vehicles in October, several months before his 80th birthday.
McLeod felt the mandatory form was an invasion of privacy, a violation of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms and age discrimination. He immediately wrote a letter to both Gary Holman, MLA of Saanich North and the Islands, and John Horgan, leader of the B.C. NDP.
“My contention is it’s an invasion of privacy and a discrimination of an identifiable group,” said McLeod. “And it’s in violation of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, that you’re innocent until proven guilty. They’re assuming you’re guilty of being incapable to drive, but that’s assuming that everybody at a certain age has a medical condition.”
McLeod asserts that seniors are the most law-abiding demographic, and that there are far worse dangers on the road than elderly drivers.
“Whenever there’s a senior in an accident, (the public) blows it up. But if there’s a drunk driver, you hardly ever hear of it,” he said. “They never say to drunk drivers, ‘Unless you join AA and prove that you don’t drink and drive, you can’t have your license.’ They would never put them through the process that they did when I turned 80.”
It’s nothing new that motor vehicles department, which falls under the Ministry of Justice, has targeted seniors and youths, Wallace said.
“It’s my guess that government policy is looking at a graduated de-licensing for seniors, just the same as there’s a graduated licensing for youth, the two demographics with a disproportionately high number of crashes.”
According to a spokesperson from the Ministry of Justice, the province has been screening aging drivers for potentially dangerous medical conditions since at least 1975, when drivers were required to start submitting medical reports at age 70.
Currently in B.C., the forms are mandatory for drivers who turn 80 and every two years thereafter, as well as drivers who have commercial licenses, drivers with a known medical condition or drivers who are reported as having a medical condition that may make it unsafe for them to drive.
As for McLeod, he ended up filling out the form, but made little head way in his drive for justice.
“But it cost me $125. The cost is borne by the senior, and as a senior, it’s tough luck,” he said.
“(Seniors) have contributed more than any other group to society, and we should be treated with more respect.”
Wallace, in his driving presentation, reminded seniors that the driver’s test is more of a checking test.
“When you get ‘the letter’ and you go to the doctor, you need your driver’s abstract, proof of your insurance (and discount), an assessment from a driving instructor and a some evidence that you’ve practised cognitive exercises.”
Once such place is lumosity.com, which offers a free trial of its brain games.
“It shows you’re assertive and puts the doctor in a place of comfort,” he said.