New seniors’ road tests a welcome change
By Steve Wallace, Times Colonist, June 11th 2014
Congratulations to ICBC for making positive changes to the senior driver road test.
These changes came into effect on April 7 and are a welcome deviation from what was an unforgiving and less-than-practical manner of judging a senior’s skill and safety behind the wheel. Formerly, a senior could fail the road test because of a repeated minor violation. For instance, this could include an infraction such as a subtly early or late signal on three or more occasions. The new test allows an indiscretion such as this to be repeated four times maximum, with a corresponding two- or five-value penalty point assessment for various weighted errors. A failing grade is only delivered when a candidate reaches a penalty point total of 60. This single change in assessment provides much-needed latitude to examiners when road-testing any senior trying to retain their driving privileges.
The driving test still involves identifying some popular road signs and a simple vision test prior to entering the personal vehicle of the senior. Yes, seniors can drive their own vehicle, or one of their choosing, on the test. A demonstration of vehicle controls is still required before the driving portion of the test can begin.
Drivers may begin the revamped road test parked nose-in to a stall parking space. If seniors instead choose to begin the test backed-in, they will likely be required to end it the same way. This will be a relief to many who have a phobia when it comes to the reverse stall park.
The road test does include a merge on and off a freeway or highway. A recent change of policy can have a senior forgo the merge at high speed and voluntarily accept a speed restriction on their driver’s licence, which negates their right to drive on a high-speed highway. This will not usually be offered, but can be requested by the senior.
The new test criteria should bring an element of fairness that was clearly lacking. I would often witness a senior with a perfect driving record, for several decades, lose their independent driving privilege because of a repeated minor violation such as a misplaced stop position at an unmarked intersection. Those days are behind us, thanks to concerns being expressed to ICBC by several informed professionals, individuals and groups. To ICBC’s credit, they listened and reacted accordingly.
There is a greater time allotment at the beginning of the in-vehicle session for explanations of what will occur on the road test. There is also much more time allowed for an explanation of the results by examiners at the conclusion of the road test. This gives seniors time to ask questions for clarification before examiners have to rush off to the next road test. Examiners do as many as nine road tests each day. The turnaround for the average road test is about 45 minutes. The senior road test is a double time slot of 90 minutes, giving ample time for preparation and debriefing of seniors taking the test. Seniors will not feel rushed as a result of these recently announced and implemented changes.
ICBC provides group orientation sessions for any seniors wishing to attend, before a mandated road-test evaluation.
It is advisable to not only attend one of these sessions, but also do a refresher drive with a professional driving instructor before taking the road test. There have been a number of regulatory changes in the past several decades. It is a good idea to be aware of them.
Steve Wallace is the owner of Joan Wallace Driving School on Vancouver Island and in the Interior of B.C. He is a former vice-president of the Driving Schools Association of the Americas, a registered B.C. teacher and a graduate of the University of Manitoba.
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