Steve Wallace: Time for senior drivers to get vocal on mandatory medical tests

Seniors are starting to do more than talk about the unfairness of the expensive mandatory medical appointments demanded by the Superintendent of Motor Vehicles in British Columbia. All drivers turning 80 must comply and do so every two years, ad infinitum.

Margaret, a regular reader of this column, corresponded with me last week. One of her friends has been subjected to this bureaucratic harassment for the past 14 years. She has passed all the doctor’s rigorous in-office cognitive and physical tests, at a total cost of more than $1,400. At least four of her seniors-group friends have just completed their first doctor visits, and are incensed by this mandatory policy. Margaret likens the present docile behaviour of seniors to the sheep moving in a comatose fashion to be sheared every two years. Her words, not mine! They asked me for my advice in the matter.

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It is time to bombard MLAs with a statement of vehement dissatisfaction with this policy directive. The motor-vehicle branch has the driving record of every senior in this province. Problem senior drivers are easy to identify. Do they demand a physical from every new teen driver candidate? Of course not. Rumour has it that the age of 80 will be reduced to 75, to conform with the regulations of other Western provinces. Wait until the baby boomers get ahold of this one — no government can survive that vote going sideways.

On another topic: The display of the N by novice drivers is becoming a provincial problem. There are thousands of drivers who are in this phase, but do not display the classification. An anonymous driver asked me if an N driver could teach an L driver. The simple answer is a resounding no. Apparently this situation presented itself to a rather frustrated constable, who erred on the side of compassion. The N phase is a ridiculous never-ending timeline. There is no duty to exit the stage by taking the second road test. Many young parents are transporting their children with this designation. They have never bothered to get rid of the N. If there was a crash or traffic ticket or tickets issued to those non-displaying N drivers, there can be legal ramifications far greater than the relatively inexpensive fee of $15 and $50 to exit the stage and gain a full Class 5 licence. Is it worth it?

What about a driver who holds a driver’s licence in more than one jurisdiction? This is a violation in B.C. The rule, at face value, makes sense. A problem is faced by people who spend half the year in one country and the remaining time in another. Which licence should they singularly hold? Do they have to re-apply upon entry back and forth? Some drivers attempt to escape the suspension of one licence by authorities by acquiring another from a far-away province or state south of the border. This was a loophole several years ago, but new technology within North America has largely ended the practice.

What about a European or Asian driver’s licence? German or Japanese licences are the most difficult to attain. The practical tests are amazingly difficult. Many other countries have very difficult entry criteria. When travelling abroad, one is required to have an international licence. There is no test, only a nominal fee and application process. Many Canadians who surrender their foreign licence, because of this one-licence policy, simply keep a duplicate, which they use upon their return to their country of origin. Surely there is a better way for countries to co-operate.

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.

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