We'll See You When You Turn 80!

BC Driver's LicenceSometimes I think that our system is designed to keep us in the driver's seat. Even in an urban area, you need a vehicle to get around with convenience. Bend a few vehicles? Pay ICBC a (relatively) few dollars more and they take care of the big bills. Can't or won't follow the driving rules? Pay for a few penalty points and don't worry, you have to get a lot of tickets before they take your licence away. Had your licence taken away? Probably not for very long, even if you killed someone.

Last week's episode of Nova, Look Who's Driving Now, was about autonomous vehicles. One of the experts interviewed expressed the opinion that driving a vehicle is probably the most demanding cognitive task that most people do on a daily basis. I'm sure that you won't be surprised to find that there are many examples in the program where drivers disengaged their brain to do things other than drive while they were behind the wheel.

Our system of driver licensing pays fairly close attention to the first three years of a driver's career. You spend a year as a Learner, pass a test, spend two years as a Novice, pass a test and you are now a fully privileged driver. The restrictions on speed, number of passengers, alcohol use, new driver signs and supervision are at an end.

After that, unless you prove to be incapable, you may pay a renewal fee every five years and not get looked at again until you turn 80.

I once checked a driver who had missed two renewals of his licence. He'd driven for more than 10 years with no licence at all! The only reason I found him was because I was conducting a road check and asking all drivers to show me their driver's licence.

I've been driving for more than 40 years now and can say from experience that there have been many changes to driving in BC since I was 16. In all that time, no one has checked to see if I have been keeping my knowledge current.

There was one test that I had to take at my last renewal, could I still see well enough to drive without corrective lenses? I could, but I still prefer to drive with my glasses on. I like to see where I'm going in as sharp a focus as I can.

Aside from new laws and road improvements that complicate my interactions with others, if I buy a new vehicle I will find myself sitting in the driver's seat with a host of driving assists. Some are mandated by Transport Canada and others I might choose on my own as options.

After finishing up with my purchase, I could decide to hop in and drive my shiny new computerized vehicle away without any instruction at all about how to maintain, use or misuse all these systems.

So, if I keep my head down, don't bump into too many things or run afoul of traffic enforcement, I can keep driving until I turn 80 and no one will ever check to see if I should still be behind the wheel and have the requisite knowledge of the system to follow it effectively.

Even after I turn 80, the regular testing is aimed at making sure that I have the necessary cognitive ability to drive, not that I actually know how to.

Can you think of any other complex, changing system today that allows it's users to carry on without training updates and testing? We'll see you when I turn 80!

 

Comments

My Thoughts

Tests that are done at the doctor's office to determine if you have the cognitive ability to drive are not always individually designed for the patient. For instance, the education level of the person responding to the questions. To lose your licence because you do not know your time tables does not seem right to me.

Then there are those doctors who have known you forever and let you go on your way without any intent of letting you lose your license.

Let's think about this, though.

Tests that are done at the doctor's office to determine if you have the cognitive ability to drive are not always individually designed for the patient.

 Of course not. Any sort of testing has to be standardized, or there's arguably no objectivity to the procedure. At the licensing level (administered by ICBC), this is going to apply to both Knowledge and Practical testing for everyone. The same type of standardized requirement must be expected of physicans, or their analysis can't be treated seriously.

For instance, the education level of the person responding to the questions. To lose your licence because you do not know your time tables does not seem right to me.

In the case of the testing applied by ICBC, the intelligence/knowledge level of fundamental language or mathematical skills is typically around Grade 8 level. The test procedure is not the issue, and this surely applies to senior evaluations done by a physician. 

For sure, when individuals 'fail' a test - whether it be due to a lack of fundamental knowledge or actual ability to 'pass' that test, it's common to blame the testing system. Much easier in fact for an individual, than accepting that they lacked the essential ability to pass that test.  A very reaction common amongst older folks who have been driving for years without an apparent issue, when they're advised that there may indeed be a problem with how they process information these days.  But I honestly don't believe that anybody gets denied their driving privilege because they don't know that 4 x 9 = 36, or whatever.

Then there are those doctors who have known you forever and let you go on your way without any intent of letting you lose your license.

This may be the case, but the fact is that the physician (or other health professional) is legally obligated to report concerns:

Report of health professional

230   (1) This section applies to every legally qualified and registered psychologist, optometrist, medical practitioner and nurse practitioner who has a patient 16 years of age or older who

(a) in the opinion of the psychologist, optometrist, medical practitioner or nurse practitioner has a medical condition that makes it dangerous to the patient or to the public for the patient to drive a motor vehicle, and

(b) continues to drive a motor vehicle after being warned of the danger by the psychologist, optometrist, medical practitioner or nurse practitioner.

(2) Every psychologist, optometrist, medical practitioner and nurse practitioner referred to in subsection (1) must report to the superintendent the name, address and medical condition of a patient referred to in subsection (1).

(3) No action for damages lies or may be brought against a psychologist, an optometrist, a medical practitioner or a nurse practitioner for making a report under this section, unless the psychologist, optometrist, medical practitioner or nurse practitioner made the report falsely and maliciously.

If I have my facts right, when the physician completes the required medical form, it will then be reviewed by the Superintendent of Motor Vehicles, now known as RoadSafe BC.  It's worth taking a moment to view the information that they are required to process for each individual who may be affected.  The particular section on seniors may be found, here.

The system is not perfect; far from it, in fact.  But it's wrong to assume that the authorities are ignoring this growing problem; the fact is, for each and every one of us, the time is going to come when one of two things occur.

1. We die.

2. We become either physically or mentally unable to operate a motor vehicle safely.

And after spending the last half of my life in the driver training/testing industry, I can tell you that every one of us reading this fits into the latter category, whether we realize it or not.

Losing the Freedom to Drive

In about 8 years I will need a test. I would not want to lose the freedom to drive, but those you mention with repeated infractions should be off our roads or at least subject to annual testing.

Some time ago. I had the roles of advising management on safety and training on a large industrial site. Fortunately , the management team were very proactive and agreed to a policy or retraining and retesting Industrial drivers who had repeating infractions or accidents. I think this had a positive impact. Losing an Industrial driving license would mean the loss of a driving job, but all would be placed somewhere not requiring a license .This was rare. It was an educative approach

In the “real “ world, it seems that politicians do not want to do anything unpopular so we have many high risk drivers on our roads .Some will wait until 80 to discover they are bad drivers.

Keeping knowledge up to date good, age discimination bad

I understand that the original issue in this discussion was the need for updating and testing to check if a driver should still be behind the wheel and has the requisite knowledge of the system to follow it effectively. If rules are brought in towards this end they should be based on factors like the length of time since the last check or test, not on age discrimination.

Currently it's true that no one checks whether someone driving for 40 years has been keeping their knowledge current. Until this changes I don't see any reason for requiring renewal every 5 years. The $75 is a money-grab from drivers and increases administrative costs. Even passports are good for 10 years.

In the UK if you passed the (tough) driving test 45 years ago at age 20, you didn't have to renew until reaching age 65. What's wrong with that?

Math Questions?

I had to chuckle because I don't think the "educated" students of today even know multiple times, I know they can't make change from a till if the till doesn't give them the answer!  The calculator was accepted into schools after I graduated and I think it's only gotten worse from there.  Ever wonder how they pass physics? 

As for knowledge testing, I'm not opposed to a renew test, say every 5-7 years.  Rules of the road change and evolve and unless you pickup a handbook to peruse and surprise yourself, there are many signs/signals/procedures that have changed since 1975, or you've just forgotten what those vertical lines on which side of the sign represents.  I can attest when I went for my motorcycle licence (2010) there were a few items I'd not only forgotten the meaning, but some new procedures that I learnt.  One of the most prolific error I encounter these days is the inability for many to negotiate roundabouts.  I'm a firm supporter of roundabouts and when they were first introduced in the lower mainland I attended 3 different seminars that the district put to the public and I googled it till I "got it" especially for the two lanes ones.  I find even the ICBC site misleads those trying to learn with the use of signalling on exiting a roundabout.  Wrong.  You'd be surprised how many users think it's the "law" to signal on exit.  It's not.  It's a courtesy call, but I tell those who will listen that a defensive driver NEVER basis their maneuvers on another drivers' signalling (or not)!  There are those sloppy signalers who's timing would not match the exit they're taking or the roundabouts that are too small in circumference to warrant a signal.  Others think the yield sign means keep your speed and merge!  I believe in KISP (keep it simple principle) and WAIT your turn and enter when both lanes are clear.... I get it right every time.

The Good Old Days...

I’ll be 80 in 2022 if I live that long. Well my health is good so far and at my age I am not on any prescription drugs. So feel that is a plus. But you never know what lay ahead. Driving is not about learning all the rules of the road. Yes the rules and obeying them are important. To me, driving is about being being alert, paying attention and able to handle your vehicle in different situations.

I learned to drive in hilly country years ago, Nelson BC. Lots of hills there and winter driving conditions of all sorts. I believe I became a not too bad of a driver (and I’m not perfect) by driving in different weather conditions especially in winter.

And we had standard steering, no power brakes or anti-lock systems and most cars were three on the tree. (3 speed transmission). Some vehicles had 4 speed trannies. You actually had better feel of the road than in today’s cars. It made you more aware of your driving abilities and you had to learn how to handle a vehicle.

Many younger drivers out there now don’t have a clue how to drive in winter conditions especially here on the lower mainland. And this is where nothing better than experience comes into play. And that is probably why I think many of us older drivers have a few more smarts at driving skills.

I was told by a person many years ago that the best driver’s course would be to take a race driver’s course as this would teach you how to handle a vehicle in many situations.

The way I see it, cars of today are quite capable of faster speeds, better handling, more efficient and better braking systems than from the cars of the last century, but the drivers are not because we are only human.

I still like my old 88 F-150 with a manual 4 speed tranny, at least I know what gear its in when driving.

New comment, and more!

Our system of driver licensing pays fairly close attention to the first three years of a driver's career. You spend a year as a Learner, pass a test, spend two years as a Novice, pass a test and you are now a fully privileged driver. The restrictions on speed, number of passengers, alcohol use, new driver signs and supervision are at an end.

This is essentially correct, but it's important to note that our system of driver licensing has always paid closer attention to the initial years of a driver's behaviour behind the wheel.  For instance, any driver who receives their initial BC license at the Class 5 level (so this would apply to those from other jurisdictions who have already been driving for some time) will be issued a two-year 'probationary' license.  Not a five-year license; the idea being that their record will be reviewed for tickets etc by OSMV as a pre-condition of allowing the five-year renewal.

There's a parallel of sorts with the Class 7 (L or N) license; yes, there's a minimum amount of time - that three years you mention being made up of one year with the L before being eligible to try the N test. When this has been passed, the driver will not be eligible to apply for the Class 5 license until another two years of relatively clean driving have elapsed.  Incidentally, this design fit very well with the belief held by many that 16 years of age is too low for a driver to be licensed (though statistical evidence contradicts this); it ensures that at the very earliest, the three years must elapse before the Class 7 driver can receive the full driving privilege of the Class 5 license by taking the necessary test.  Obtaining that Class 5 license is also a pre-condition of being able to apply for a higher class of license to drive taxis, buses, trucks, etc so it's  also been ensured that drivers will only be eligible if they are a minimum of 19 years of age, which coincides with becoming an adult in law.

But what caught the authorities 'off-guard', so to speak, was that they anticipated that the majority of drivers would choose to exit Graduated Licensing as soon as possible.  The individual has been able to drive solo for that previously mentioned two year period, and has (apparently) behaved themselves properly behind the wheel (otherwise they wouldn't be eligible for further testing/qualifying).  So on the one hand, it only made sense for ICBC Licensing to issue a $75 five-year license (that two-year probationary period has elapsed), but there was a very strong belief that pretty much as soon as they were eligible, drivers would want to upgrade to that Class 5.  Cost isn't a huge issue: $50 for the Class 5 test fee & $17 for the replacement license, which probably won't need to be renewed for another three years.

But there are in fact a great number of Class 7 N drivers out there who apparently don't find those license restrictions particularly onerous

Here's a funny thing, incidentally.  If you're 65 or older, and have decided for the first time to obtain your driver license, they waive the test fee because of your age.

Also, I'm feeling a bit guilty because this is all a bit off-topic from the original subject, but we'll return to that in a little while.

Turning 80 and keeping current on vehicles and road rules

I'm one of those that will find out what it is like to reach the 80 mark in 2020. When I do I will have been driving for 72 years, 64 of them as a licenced driver.

The 5 year renewal was in when I got my licence and at the time I was under the impression that one would be required to write the exam and take a new test every 5 years. I remember my parents got re-tested the same year I got my licence. I never have. In 1956 one could get their equivalent of a Class 5 and immediately take the test for their Class 1. I got one on Monday the other on Wednesday. Back then if you took your test on an automatic you were restricted to an automatic. You also had to use a vehicle of less than 6000 GVW and could not drive anything with a greater GVW rating. In rural areas most of us kids had either a Class 3 or Class 1.

I think the most important thing is how one looks at both driving and vehicles. I grew up in an era and area when anything automotive was important. As a friend of mine puts it if we were given the choice of our left testicle or a drivers licence we would have opted for the licence. Vehicles were important as was the piece of paper that gave us our freedom. We could quote the displacement of all the engine options, what accessories were offered etc. Today most of us are the same. We can still rattle off what is offered in the new cars of today. Vehicles were our passion.

Today we are the ones you will see sitting behind the wheel of our new pride and joy reading the "Owners Manual". We know how to operate the useless junk. Even if we rent a vehicle you will find us harassing the rental agent for the owners manual which you will seldom find in a rental vehicle.

Many of us have taken defensive driving courses over the years. A few of us keep up to date on the rules of the road by practicing the ICBC sample tests and other tests offered by different agencies.

One thing to keep in mind what is legal and required in B.C. may not be so in other jurisdictions. So unless the course you are taking or the video's you are watching are for B.C. the information you are receiving could be wrong.

Age to me is irrelevant when it comes to operating motor vehicles. There is the point and go type that as long as the thing starts they are off. Probably have never checked any fluid levels, tire pressure or lights but they are off and running. The same attitude towards that piece of plastic that says they can operate. Then there is the ones that do pre-trip or weekly inspections, keep current on the rules of the road and what the current safety gadgets are.

I have friends and acquaintances in all age groups and both categories.

Who Is ICBC Going to Test?

Given the auto industry is leaning to driverless vehicles, if I live long enough and become the owner of a driverless vehicle, who is ICBC going to test the vehicle or me?

I may even be sitting in the passenger seat and where I used sit would be occupied by a computer.

I might add I’m not 80 but coming sooner than later. I’ll take the test tomorrow if need be.

With driverless vehicles who will police be issuing that ticket for a violation? I would think it’s going require a different standard of policing and one of policy from ICBC.

We are approaching the driverless vehicle sooner than our politicians want to admit

You miss one essential point -

The Driver License doesn't get issued to the vehicle. It gets issued to the human who is apparently qualified to drive the vehicle they have brought in for the test, and all others in the same category. So a self-driving vehicle wouldn't meet their necessary standards.

Trust me, the ICBC Road Test criteria require the driver to be seated behind the wheel, and operating the vehicle to a proscribed requirement. This will be, in part, the physical skills to correctly operate the wheel, brake, and accelerator. Whilst also, and perhaps most importantly, demonstrating and applying good Observation skills throughout the test, to the extent that the Driver Examiner can ensure that this is happening. 

There may indeed be a time soon when we're all in driverless vehicles; but nobody is going to qualify for a Driver License in one.

 

Oh, an additional thought that might apply. Let's suppose our aged driver (already in possesion of a valid license) has bought one of these cars, and wants only to 'drive' that car.  There might be a provision for that created under Restriction 51 being added to his/her license, with the specifics defined.

Driverless Cars

I can see driverless cars operating under certain conditions. Canada has a vast array of roads and conditions. I don't believe there is anyone alive today that will see 100% autonomous driving.

How are they going to navigate when the road is covered with 20 cm of fresh snow? Or the dirt road leading to your local lake or navigating the winding road down to your cabin?

Operating on the main highways summer conditions, yes they can basically do it now.

Winter conditions or getting out exploring like so many love to do, decades away.

In the meantime anyone taking a drivers test should have to turn off all the modern technology and prove they can actually drive a vehicle.

I do wonder though if the new laws regarding cell phone operation are really necessary with newer vehicles having all those areas covered with the navigating systems in place today?

Completely off subject did you see where a 16 year old Kelowna boy is in Barcelona driving a formula E car? I'm glad there is still kids that love cars and driving.

No Big Deal

I was a salesperson. always driving around BC. I've witnessed one crash and just missed 2 on West side of Capilano River Bridge on #1 crossing from West Van to North Van . The 2 I missed were morning and afternoon on the same day. All 3 lost control and spun out.

Thats last summer and this summer. The pot holes get patched up now and then. They seem to have money to build the Spirit Trail connecting West Van and North Van. Thats nice.

Can ICBC tell us how many accidents have occurred there over say the last 10 years? That one really seems silly not to repair, especially with all the work they've done improving the bridges along West Van upgrading over the last few years.

Also I really cringe when coming off the ferry (horseshoe bay) and meeting the Squamish Highway. That is one tricky disaster waiting to happen. I've seen 1 bad incident there as well. Trouble is, a lot of the time you hear about it on the radio and thats about it. No big deal.

Anyway... My 2 cents for now.

I CAN Think of Another

Bicycle riding in urban areas!

It's the Young People

I live in a community where half the population seems over 80. i'm 84 and to paraphrase the Mexican bandit in "Sierra Madre," I dont need no damn test or updates. Some of the worst drivers I see around here are many of the young crowd.

It's not the same test, though.

 i'm 84 and to paraphrase the Mexican bandit in "Sierra Madre," I dont need no damn test or updates.

It's great to know that you're still going strong at 84, and there are no worries on the part of your GP.  But it's important to realize that the reasons for testing new drivers are vastly different from the reasons for testing elderly drivers.

With new drivers, it has to be determined whether the applicant has the fundamental ability to properly operate the vehicle all on their own; turns, stops, starts, lane use, parking, reversing, sufficiently good observation and following of the rules being necessary, obviously.

Some of the worst drivers I see around here are many of the young crowd.

I don't doubt it. But that's a separate, enforcement issue. It's not how they drove at the time of their road test. Complain to the cops if you don't like the way someone is driving now.

Meanwhile, whilst minimal medical standards are required for every driver, varying with the class of license, the main concern with regular drivers, on the part of the licensing authorities, is the gradual onset of dementia, an entirely different measurement. The people who set the rules aren't stupid; they realize that if someone who has been driving a vehicle for 60+ years, and hasn't screwed up too badly so far, does not need a test of their fundamental skills. Let's face it, if you can drive your car to the license office, then you can drive a car.

So although many drivers fail to follow all the rules, the reason for potentially requiring a Re-Examination is quite different. It's a medical issue, and that's a rationale that applies to all drivers, at every license level.

 

There Have Been Other Changes Too

Not just the vehicle; the roads have changed as well. Was there an education campaign when roundabouts were introduced? I’ve never seen traffic enforcement at one yet I see violation after violation at these intersections.What does green paint mean? What about red?. Anyone know what Elephant’s feet are? There should at least be some education and testing at the time of renewal.

Other changes - good point!

Not just the vehicle; the roads have changed as well. Was there an education campaign when roundabouts were introduced?

Yes, there was. ICBC spent some bucks on print media, at a minimum, whilst also updating their Learn To Drive Smart guide. At the local level, the municipal government contacted experts (including myself) for an exchange of information on how Roundabouts should be dealt with, that would go to into a local newspaper advertisement they were preparing. 

I’ve never seen traffic enforcement at one yet I see violation after violation at these intersections.

You'll get no argument from me. But frankly, it seems increasingly rare to see any traffic enforcement at any intersections these days. And why drivers seem unable to comprehend that 'Yield' means that you must yield to everyone else is beyond me.

Encouragingly, as Roundabouts have been added by authorities around the province, the local ICBC Road Test routes have been re-designed to encompass them (as well as the Traffic Circles appearing in quiet neighbourhoods near you).

What does green paint mean? What about red?

Good questions, these! I'm pretty certan that green paint means don't stop on it, unless you're a cyclist. The red paint that's now showing up appears to designate some sort of HOV/Bus-dedicated traffic lane; it's on my list of new things to find out about.

Anyone know what Elephant’s feet are?

Yup, those new crosswalks that have been created for both pedestrian and cyclist use. I have no idea whey they use that term (but then, the British have Pegasus, Pelican, Puffin, Toucan & Zebra crossings) but I sure as heck haven't ever seen an Elephant with square feet. The message to the driver on the main road - that the conflicting road users are likely to arrive in their path a whole lot sooner and faster - is hopefully understood by all.

There should at least be some education and testing at the time of renewal.

Education and testing are two different issues. When are people going to realize that?  In an earlier post, you said:

I dont need no damn test or updates.

Really? In whose opinion? Frankly, I don't need no damn test (in my opinion - or my doctor's) so I'll keep on keeping on driving the vehicles that I'm licensed for. But updates would help all of us, and I think that updating everyone as much as possible (even if only at license renewal time) is of paramount importance. 

That said, I don't think that ignorance of the general rules - or whatever new rules that are introduced on our roadways - is any kind of leading factor when collisions occur. 

But increasingly, we have more elderly drivers on the road. It's great that they're all alive and living longer in this society. But not if their mental abilities threaten all the other road users; those ones shouldn't be licensed, at any age.

testing

I am a staunch supporter of retesting. Even every 10 years would be better than the way things are now. I would even pay extra if it meant everyone retests, and I'd even pay more....if things could go back to the days where there were police on the highways and thoroughfares who were enforcing the trafffic laws.

James

IFIXCATS Mobile Heavy Equipment Repair.

Would I Pass?

This article coincided with my fourth 2-year Driver’s Medical Exam. I have been driving in Canada, the US and in the UK for over 61 years and have often wondered just how well I would perform if I had to take a full driver’s exam today. It is a dilemma, when you have reached my age, as to whether to renew your license every two years or not. So far, I have continued to do so simply because I live in an area where the public transportation system is very limited and, because, despite my age, I try to live as active a life as possible, i.e., attend ElderCollege courses, belong to the library book club and attend concerts at TOSH, and, of course, to shop for groceries every few days. I don’t have any particular wisdom on whether people in my age bracket should continue to drive or not, but I can share with you what I have done to try and ameliorate the “ravages of old age” and still continue to drive as safely as possible. First, since I reached the age of 65, I have taken, every two years, either your courses on safe driving for seniors or ones just like it when I lived in Kelowna. I have also, in the last few years, curtailed the range and times that I drive; for example, I now just drive in the Parkseville – Qualicum Beach area and arrange, with a younger friend or neighbour for them to drive if I have to go to Nanaimo or Courtenay. Similarly, I no longer drive at night, or in torrential rain, or snowy weather. I don’t believe that any of these self-imposed restrictions make me a more skillful or better driver, but I do think they reduce the risk of me injuring other people or of my own personal self.

There have been some tremendous changes in the last ten years on the design and safety of automobiles. Starting with the introduction of Anti-Lock Brakes and subsequently, Forward Collision Warning, Pedestrian Protection, Automatic Emergency Braking and Blind Spot Warning  so most vehicles have become much safer to drive. Unfortunately, with this increase in technology has come smart phones, GPS and infotainment systems, all of which may lead to “distractive driving”.  I also think that some of the more advanced safety systems have provided some drivers with a false sense of security – that it is now okay to drink alcohol, smoke marihuana, send text messages or watch videos on their phones as the safety systems will take over and avoid an accident. Many of the new safety systems are very good, but they’re not that good!

In your article you talked about every driver in BC having to be re-examined every five years, when they renew their driver’s license. Although I think this is probably a very good idea, given the sheer number of drivers in this province and the number of new driver examiners that would be required, perhaps, as a first step, ICBC could employ some form of automated driving simulation test, and, if a person did not pass it, have them come in for a full driver’s examination.

Sharing

Driving a car is a question of driving for others too. To be as safe as we need to be in charge of  a dangerous chariot is to see all other drivers around you as idiots. Then think what their next move will be. Over time it becomes habit and you work out how the driver is in front and mind read his day. Sounds silly but actions foretell where you will end up so knowing him is part of daily driving. In this way thank God never had an accident but many near misses. I use my brain to keep me safe my action clear and relaxed. My eye on road is on the cars in front and behind. You will be surprised what goes on in cars that beggar belief. Best be alert to all. Stay safe stay driving 70 years a driver!

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