Dear RoadSafetyBC

BC LogoGather a group of traffic enforcement officers for coffee and doughnuts at Tim Hortons and we'll sit and swap stories about what we have seen and shake our heads in amazement. Sometimes it's an attempt to avoid PTSD and others it's because we genuinely can't believe that someone would behave this way. I think I might have heard one that will be almost impossible to top this past weekend.

The constable I was speaking to told me about an investigation that he had conducted with regard to an older male and his driving ability. This gentleman had problems with falling asleep while driving. Knowing this, he always took his wife along so that when he fell asleep, she could wake him up again. What is really interesting is that this lady is blind. The first notice that she had of her husband falling asleep was the change in vibration as the tires left the pavement.

Imagine the pitfalls in this system! This driver is trapped in our driving oriented society. His wife can't drive, and if he were to lose his licence, they are both left living in a rural area with no easy access to transportation to fill their daily needs. In a way, he sees himself as forced to struggle to maintain his chosen lifestyle.

His determination to continue to drive rather than giving up his licence on his own has placed everyone on the road at significant risk. His family knew about the situation, but was caught in the same difficulty that many face when their parents are no longer able to drive safely. Do they do something, does the family doctor take responsibility, or do we wait for the police to find out and take action?

RoadSafetyBC, headed by the Superintendent of Motor Vehicles, is responsible for taking action when a case like this is brought to their attention. Anyone can make an unsolicited driver fitness report and the web site states that "Unsolicited reports expressing concerns regarding a driver’s safety on the road are given high priority by RoadSafetyBC."

Driver fitness in this case is a health condition that prevents a driver from driving properly. Drivers who are healthy but regularly choose to drive in a manner that puts themselves and other road users at risk are not of any interest in terms of an unsolicited driver fitness report. If you try to submit one you will be directed to make your report to the police. End of discussion.

Fitness reports must be submitted in writing and contain as much information that you can give to properly identify the driver and the difficulties that they are suffering from.

You must also identify yourself and provide contact information because all anonymous reports will be refused.

Following a review of the report and the driver's current driving record, RoadSafetyBC's response can consist of a medical examination directive, an Enhanced Road Assessment, or licence cancellation depending on what the problem is and whether it can be corrected or not.

If you make a report, unless you know the driver, you will not find out what action, if any, was taken. Provincial privacy legislation prevents RoadSafetyBC from sharing this information with anyone but the driver or a legal designate.

I realize this item was first written a few years back, and I can only say that the situation has deteriorated considerably.

The fact is, I've tried reporting a senior who was so out of it he was almost oblivious to his surroundings in a parking lot, and who then exited onto the street ... and drove along it for a couple blocks on the wrong side of the road.  It was only when he got to the nearest major intersection that he seemed to figure out that he wasn't going to be successful attempting to turn left from that traffic light.

So I phoned Road Safe right away, gave them the guy's license plate along with a description of the car he was driving (and a description of the driver), and what did it achieve? Absolutely nothing; without me also being able to provide his name, they claimed they couldn't do a thing.

It's just so damn stupid. Like ICBC or the RCMP, RSBC have the ability to look up information like this just from the license plate, which would be bound to provide them with an excellent idea of who this dangerous driver actually was. 

RSBC aren't completely useless, though. Their Enhanced Road Assessment, designed for testing seniors (with a particular focus on cognitive issues) is very well designed. But I'm guessing that it doesn't get used too much, except when family members (or others with personal information on the decrepit driver) get in touch ... of course, by then it may be too late.

In reply to by CompetentDrivingBC

My last experience was in my Three Strikes article. They were only interested in repeating that they weren't interested. No sense reading the e-mail for content and then thinking about it before replying, is there?

I know how true these situations can be.

I knew a driver who was quite a bit older than his wife and was going blind. She was in her seventies and the only way they could get around is if the husband continued to drive. She didn’t have a drivers license but essentially would direct her husband as he drove the car.

He was legally blind but still driving blindly following her verbal instructions of when to stop or turn etc.

Your blind wife story reminded me of my grandparents. Similar situation, trapped in a driving culture...

My grandmother was quite frail and not physically capable of driving; my grandfather suffered macular degeneration and couldn’t see particularly well, but was not yet legally impaired.

You guessed it: she sat in the passenger seat warning of upcoming obstacles (like pedestrians), and he drove the car. They worked their system well enough that they never had an accident, but my father tried in vain several times to report them, get them assessed, and off the road. This was c.1980, and likely well before the current reporting system existed in BC.  I like to think his attempts were a factor in the creation of the current fitness reporting system.

My mother lived in a small town and the rest of the family lived far away. Mother still was trying to drive and when we visited we noticed dents and marks on the car.

A few questions around town and we heard how everyone stayed clear of her when she drove.

So my brother got under the hood disconnected a few wires, put a rolled up note in the distributer "do not fix this car driver is dangerous."

We got the word out that the car was for sale. She mentioned the car would not start, later she said she sold it, what a relief and the town was happy. She got plent of rides so she was happy.

Got to love small towns!