The road assessment that helps determine whether drivers can safely remain behind the wheel will be enhanced in 2018, becoming more accessible and more focused on making B.C.’s roads safer for everyone.
Beginning in March 2018, ICBC will deliver the new enhanced road assessment (ERA) to drivers whom RoadSafetyBC determines need a functional road assessment regarding their medical fitness to drive safely.
This assessment will include drivers with medical conditions who currently attend an ICBC re-examination, and drivers who are currently referred for a DriveABLE cognitive assessment.
“The enhanced road assessment puts the focus more sharply on whether someone’s still safe to drive their vehicle, and it’s conducted in a way that’s more accessible and will improve safety,” says Minister of Public Safety and Solicitor General Mike Farnworth. “The new process is the result of consulting experts and looking at many options, including what other jurisdictions are doing, so drivers can be confident that others around them are qualified to be at the wheel.”
This new approach will extend the current ICBC re-examination to 90 minutes from 75 minutes, incorporating new components to assess driving errors that may result from cognitive impairment and other areas of medical concern. It will also eliminate the in-office, computer-based screening that is currently part of the DriveABLE assessment, which many drivers have said adds unnecessary complexity and stress.
Instead, ICBC driver examiners will gradually increase the complexity of driving tasks, provide a break and feedback midway through, and have clear parameters for ending an assessment early if necessary, all to help maximize safety in real-world driving conditions.
Drivers will be able to use their own vehicles, as many drivers have said that having to operate an unfamiliar vehicle affects their on-road assessment results. Access and convenience will also be improved, with approximately 70 ICBC locations delivering the ERA province-wide.
Concerns about the driver competency re-examination have been raised for some time. For many senior drivers, being able to continue driving is a way of retaining independence and maintaining important social connections, and having that ability taken away can have negative consequences.
In 2012, then-solicitor-general Shirley Bond said the government needed to do a better job of explaining its computerized driving test for seniors suspected of cognitive impairment.
“Government has the responsibility of balancing individuals’ desire to drive with the responsibility to ensure the public safety of all British Columbians,” Bond said in an open letter.
“The vast majority of B.C. seniors successfully pass the driver’s medical exam,” says Isobel Mackenzie, B.C.’s Seniors Advocate. “For those very few who are referred for further testing, the changes being implemented by RoadSafetyBC represent a major improvement from the past system and will make the processes much less stressful for those seniors required to undertake a road test.”
“The Counsel of Senior Citizens Organizations of B.C. (COSCO) is encouraged that our collaboration with RoadSafetyBC assisted with the new direction of the driver fitness program,” says Gudrun Langolf, acting president, COSCO. “No one wants unsafe drivers on the road, regardless of age. The changes will be welcome news to many of our members who have heard of or experienced challenges with computer-based testing.”
Drivers required to take an ERA will receive it at no cost. RoadSafetyBC evaluated the driver fitness of more than 170,000 people in 2016, of whom approximately 3,000 completed an ICBC re-examination and 1,000 completed a DriveABLE cognitive assessment.