I read with dismay your article in Friday's Tri-Cities NOW: "Loss of licence a blow."
On May 23, 2013, our North Fraser Chapter CARP (A New Vision of Aging for Canada) held a public meeting in Coquitlam on the subject of the mandatory exam for drivers when they turn 80. A representative from ICBC and a driver examiner from the Department of Motor Vehicles made a presentation.
The subject was very popular and oversubscribed. We had to turn away many who wanted to attend because we had reached capacity. Those who did attend had many questions and sad tales for the presenters. Numerous seniors I talked to on the phone expressed concern about the process. The predominant feeling was confusion, followed by fear. I also heard many horror stories about the arbitrary way the Department of Motor Vehicles treated them.
I'm concerned that your article, and particularly the statements made by COSCO (Council of Senior Citizens of BC), do not reflect reality.
CARP advocates against ageism, and an arbitrary exam at age 80 - regardless of the physical and mental condition of the 80 year old - is simply ageism. First, doctors and other medical professionals are required by law to report anyone they think is unsuitable to have a driver's licence. Secondly, the fee of about $175 for the doctor's examination poses an extreme hardship for seniors on fixed incomes. Finally, from my experience talking to seniors, the Department of Motor Vehicles is insensitive to seniors' feelings. One woman I talked to failed her medical examination and went through the subsequent cognitive and written exams. Instead of telling her why she failed, they simply told her to turn in her licence. She tried repeatedly to get information from them and was ignored. So I wrote a letter to the Superintendent of Motor Vehicles on her behalf and didn't even receive the courtesy of a reply.
Most 80 year olds now have all their faculties and are no threat to anyone on the road. Many people now lead healthy and active lives well past 80. There must be a better way than traumatizing these people. ICBC still gives discounts to seniors because seniors cost ICBC less in claims than other drivers. And for many, driving is not just a luxury but a necessity if they are going to remain independent and lead active lives.
I agree there are people in their 80s who shouldn't be driving but that also applies to many younger drivers. But to punish everyone for the acts of a few is not only unfair, it's mean-spirited. Let's apply some common sense and compassion with older drivers.
Chair North Fraser Chapter CARP
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