We Teach Driving Like Your Life Depends On It

Prepare, beware and don’t despair

By Steve Wallace, Victoria Times Colonist February 25, 2011

There are many proactive steps seniors can take when they are asked to submit to a review of their driving skills. Photograph by: Bruno Schlumberger, Postmedia News, Times Colonist

There are many proactive steps seniors can take when they are asked to submit to a review of their driving skills.

Most seniors dread the day they will receive the letter directing them to their family doctor, for a physical, psychological and cognitive test, which will help determine their fitness to drive. Here is a template that every senior should seriously consider before submitting to any fitness-to-drive scenario.

Seniors should adopt a proactive response to any such request. If you feel confident in your driving ability, arm yourself with the documentation to make your case for retaining your driver’s licence.

Every driver has a driver abstract. It is the written record of the driving history of every licensed driver, produced at no cost to the driver by the licensing authority. The vast majority of drivers have clean driving records. Seniors who can prove a record of safety by producing and presenting this abstract to the doctor will be taking the first step to retaining their driver’s licence.

The next advice involves making a copy of your insurance. In the vast majority of cases, the insurance document will show a safe driver’s discount, perhaps a maximum “RoadStar” discount. This will further establish a driving history and permanent record of achievement.

Get your driving assessed by a professional driving school, preferably one which specializes in senior driver assessments. The content of the assessment should go well beyond the elementary and rudimentary tasks, which are the stuff of the provincial practical driving test. There should be a session that emphasizes the new rules and techniques introduced over the last few decades. Ask for a written report and recommendation from the driving school, after the refresher and assessment drive has been concluded. Include it in the folder with the abstract, insurance and any other relevant material. The relevant material may include a support letter or letters from family members.

There are opportunities to attend theory sessions offered at the ICBC office, as well as by several private operators. Many seniors’ centres have guest speakers and sessions tailored specifically to licence retention.

Doctors are often put in a very difficult position when it comes to determining the fitness to drive of their elderly patients. All these proactive steps help them decide on a course of action. They bear a responsibility which is onerous and they need all the information they can get in order to make a good decision. Providing them with all of this information may be enough to satisfy the doctor of the patient’s fitness to drive. A referral to a geriatric specialist may be ordered by your doctor. Many doctors already have a working relationship with a driving school. This gives them a comfort zone when it comes to making a sound performance based decision on the retention of a driver’s licence.

If an ICBC driving test is required, it will include an eye test, a review of the road signs and a practical road test in your own car, or the car of your choice. It is a good idea to practise for several weeks prior to the test. A letter demanding that you make an arrangement to take the test within 30 days will arrive at your door. The test does not have to be completed in 30 days: The arrangement must be made within the 30-day time frame.

There is a private enterprise option, which is also used as a testing tool for seniors. It will be the stuff of another column in the near future, as will be the hard truth about when a senior should give up the privilege to drive.

Steve Wallace is a member of the College of Teacher’s of B.C. and the owner of Joan Wallace Driving School with operations on Vancouver Island and in the Central Interior of B.C.

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