Senior Driver Re-Exams

Senior DriverI am often asked to write on the topic of senior driver re-exams when there is a crash where an older driver has mistaken the gas for the brake and collided with a building. People are concerned that many members of this easily identified segment of our society shouldn't be on the road.

Driver Medical Fitness Guidelines

The reality is somewhat different. Many times in my service I encountered younger drivers that fell into the same category for one medical reason or another. All are treated equally under the Guides for Determining Medical Fitness to Drive established by the B.C. Medical Association.

Reporting Unfit Drivers

Drivers of any age who are possible candidates for re-examination may be identified by police, medical professionals, family and friends to RoadSafetyBC (formerly the Superintendent of Motor Vehicles). The reports may not be made anonymously and the report information is available to the driver being reported.

Only medical professionals are obligated by law to report drivers who fail to obey their caution to stop driving.

When the report is not made by a medical professional RoadSafetyBC will evaluate the circumstances and if necessary cause the suspect driver to undergo a medical exam.

Driver Medical Examination Report (DMER)

Senior drivers are sent notifications of pending medical exams at age 79 by RoadSafetyBC. If you don't have a family doctor, now is the time to prepare by finding a medical professional who can complete your exam form with you.

The mandatory medical examinations for fitness begin at age 80 in British Columbia. The next exam occurs at age 85 and then recur every second year after that unless a problem is identified that would indicate that a shorter time period is necessary.

DMER Results

In 2019 66,000 seniors were required to complete a DMER. Of that group, 4,800 were referred to ICBC for an Enhanced Road Assessment (ERA). 3.450 drivers took the test and 2,070 of them passed.

Driver Licence Restrictions

Depending on the result the driver may be limited by restrictions on their driver's licence or their driving privileges may be ended. Common restrictions include not driving at night, not to drive faster than a prescribed speed or not to drive outside a radius of a certain number of kilometres from the place they reside.

Preparing to Stop Driving

RoadSafetyBC says that we are outliving our ability to drive safety by about 10 years and some of us choose to continue to drive even when we are aware that we are unsafe. Rather than wait for the DMER or ERA it is worthwhile to plan to stop driving rather than face a sudden stop when your driving privileges come to an end.

Driving Transition Video

My good wife approaching her 80th birthday has been notified a medical exam for ICBC will be required. Calling our family doctor to make an appointment for this exam we learn she will be billed privately for $240! Is this the going rate for this exam?

I am 83 years old.

I do not need glasses, nor were any recommended in my last optical test in August 2023. I get an eye exam every August. I was told by my optometrist that I do not have any sign of glaucoma, macular degeneration or any other potential eye problems. I have never needed glasses.

I also lost my doctor a year ago August. Interestingly enough I was supposed to be scheduled for my doctor’s driving appointment testing in November 2022.

Naturally I was very concerned about not being able, through no fault of my own, to pass this test and lose my driving license. I contacted, I believe, ICBC who informed me because of COVID they had suspended the requirement, to my relief.

FYI I have had 3 non life threatening accidents. The first was when I was 16 and a recent driver. Across the road was a used car dealer with a bunch of hoopla including some pretty girls in short skirts dancing. There was one car ahead of me as we took off closing in on the hoopla. Of course seeing pretty girls dancing distracted my attention to glance over. The idiot in front of me for some unknown reason just stopped to look, right in the middle of the road. Of course I hit his rear end but the damage was minimal as neither of us were going very fast.

Second was when I was about 50, I was travelling north on a residential street when the driver of another car ran a stop sign and T-boned me.

Third was when I was about 67. I was stopped at a traffic light on a double turning lane with a large truck blocking my left side view. The light turned green, we both started to go forward when I noticed the truck jammed on his brakes so I did also. Unfortunately the nose of my car stuck out a bit further into the intersection. A guy ran a red light and hit me left drivers side. He said the sun was in his eyes and he couldn’t see if the light was red or green so he assumed it was green, even thought the car on his left had stopped.

Why do I mention these examples? Other than time when I was 16, none were even close to being my fault. Age doesn’t necessarily mean incompetence or competence.

Instead of requiring a doctor to test, I suggest everyone needs a five year driving test to determine competence. After 75 every two years and after age 85 every year.

Surely that would be a logical thing to do, instead of my situation with no doctor. Your comment about finding a doctor is impossible. How does one find a doctor when a million people in Canada can’t?

Older drivers who hit the gas instead of the brake are the ones who drive with both feet. Left for brake and right for gas. They are trained to hit the brake with their right foot. Nobody should drive with both feet so I believe in a situation of hitting the gas instead of the brake they hit the wrong pedal. That’s my opinion. Why because I have driven with some seniors who drive that way in the past.

Fully expecting to hear from ICBC with regard to a medical to keep my licence I watched the mail and asked others in my building about their experience. Nothing came in the mail…and I am certain of this as I do all my business on line to avoid getting mail, so one piece a month is the norm. The neighbours mostly said they were not advised to take a medical. So with that knowledge I thought since I had 2 years left on my current licence I apparently did not have to get the medical.

So it was with much surprise I received a letter in late September reminding me that I had not complied with their directive mailed to me in May to get a Medical!! They advised they would suspend my licence if I did not get it!

So I called ICBC who told me I should go to an ICBC office to get the required form. When I asked she advised there was no Doctor’s fee for this.

When I tried picking up the form the office had a line up out the door, so I went back home and booked an appointment. Upon arriving at the ICBC office to get it, I was told I did not require an appointment as the receptionist, who was my first contact, could just give me one. She also told me I was one of many people who claimed they had not received the initial notice in the mail!

I booked my appointment with my Doctor who requested $160 for it. The receptionist there also said many people advised they had not received that initial form. My Doctor’s office offered to fax it to ICBC.

A month later I am still waiting to hear back from ICBC.

I am only writing to you so you are aware of this for future columns. I am appalled that BC Seniors are being treated this way. The thought of being threatened by ICBC of removal of my licence, not to mention the exorbitant cost of the Doctor’s report, is really discriminatory. Ageism is the word. This requirement is totally based on age as my driving record is exemplary. My health is good, my eyesight is fine. All the Doctor did was ask me questions and give a quick eye test. That is if one can find a Doctor! Apparently a nurse practitioner can do it as well.

Perhaps when one is renewing their auto insurance this could be done by them?