We Teach Driving Like Your Life Depends On It

‘Seens’ teens can co-operate on tests

By Steve Wallace, Times Colonist March 17, 2012

Drivers in British Columbia are required by the Office of the Superintendent of Motor Vehicles to take a medical exam, and possibly a road test, at the age of 80.

Seniors and teenagers are helping one another in the driving task like never before. Both groups are the most likely to be called to do a driving test. That simple fact makes them allies in the effort to retain or gain the privilege of holding a driving licence.

Teens are often more responsive to instruction and practice with their grandparents than their parents. They are less intimidated than with parents. Grandparents have the time, expertise, experience and willingness to spend quality time with their grandkids. Parents are seen as the greater authority figures and the time spent in practice driving situations can be positive, but it can become a tense and stressful situation. Grandparents often come to the rescue.

Grandparents who have been notified of a pending driving test often need help to practice cognitive skills on a computer. Who best to help them in this endeavour but their grandkids with everyday computer skills? Teens are also very aware of the new rules of the road. They have often had experience with the rather arduous ordeal of passing a difficult theory test in order to attain a learner’s licence.

Teens can benefit from the vast life experiences of senior drivers. Seniors are aware of the many driving trouble spots. Seniors have seen or experienced most of the dangers of driving. The stress and fear of an impending driver’s test binds both age groups. The grandparents are very much inclined to pay for driving courses for their grandchildren, or at least a portion of the costs. If they can afford it, seniors are delighted to give their older vehicles to the grandkid rather than use it as a low value trade-in.

Testing is different for both groups.

There is no knowledge test requirement for seniors. They are subjected to an eye test and reminded of certain road signs. They may have to go through a cognitive examination process as well, depending on the type of test required. Teens must pass a theory and eye test prior to being allowed to practice driving. The practical driving test for seniors is much less difficult than for teens.

Seniors need only perform a few skill-related tasks, such as merging on the highway, a three-point turn and a reverse stall park, as well as identifying hazards while driving. Parallel parking is not tested. Teens, on the other hand, are required to perform several skill-related tasks that may include parallel, reverse, hill and lateral parking. Hazards must be identified while parked.

A U-turn, two-point and three-point turn and straight backing manoeuvre and safe entry-exit of the vehicle are more than likely demonstrated. Driving on the highway is not required. The second test does include highway driving and can be taken after a two-year time frame. Exceptions for some learner drivers allow for a second test after eighteen months.

Seniors who are required to take a DriveABLE test must first qualify on a cognitive test and possibly a practical driving test. If cognitive results are lacking or if they are positively conclusive, no practical test is required. A driving test will be given to those seniors whose cognitive test results are inconclusive. The test is conducted in a designated vehicle in a fixed location. It includes city, residential and highway driving.

At present, there are no government requirements for cognitive testing of teens, but the service is available at some driving schools. Seniors and teens have one other physical trait in common. Neither group sees well at night. Young adult eyesight does not mature until the early 20s. Seniors’ night vision sometimes declines rapidly with age. For this reason, teen practice drives with grandparents are best done in daylight.

The generation gap seems to be no big impediment to the co-operative success of both age groups.

Steve Wallace is a member of the College of Teachers and the owner of Joan Wallace Driving School on Vancouver Island and the Interior of B.C.


This story has been updated with corrected information.

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