Seniors Advocate to review drivers’ tests

B.C. Seniors Advocate will look at the mandatory driver tests and their fees in 2016.

Sidney’s John McCloud raised the issue of seniors’ driver’s licence testing and inconsistent fees with MLA Gary Holman in early 2015.

Saanich North and the Islands MLA Gary Holman is praising B.C. Seniors Advocate Isobel Mackenzie for her plans to look into the mandatory testing of drivers once they reach age 80.

In a letter to Holman dated Dec. 7, 2015, Mackenzie writes that she will review the issue of the tests and the fees charged, during her office’s look into seniors’ transportation issues this year.

“I am leaning toward exploring a system where lower income seniors … would have the exam paid for and that physicians would agree to a standard charge for this group,” she wrote.

Holman said this is great news, as his office has fielded many calls from seniors who are not only upset at the mandatory tests — but also to the inconsistent fees being charged for them.

Once drivers in B.C. reach the age of 80, they are required by the Superintendent of Motor Vehicles to undergo a Driver’s Medical Examination Report (DMER). The fees for these tests are determined by a family doctor and the test is required at two year intervals once a driver reaches the age of 80.

“Because the exam fees aren’t covered by the Medical Services Plan (MSP), it’s been left up to doctors to set their own fees,” Holman said, adding he’s heard reports of some doctors charging as much as $400.

“What I hear from many seniors in my riding is that they don’t disagree with the premise of requiring testing” Holman said. “What they fundamentally disagree with is the prohibitive cost of these tests, which for some of them means they will have to stop driving entirely.”

Holman said he has been pushing for physicians or their regulatory bodies to create a consistent fee for seniors drivers, so they know what to expect to pay for their required medical exam in order to maintain their driver’s license.

Holman said it’s his understanding that Mackenzie will include this issue and some recommendations within her larger transportation study.

He added he hopes that will include having fees waived for seniors who fall into the low income category.

In early 2015, Sidney resident John McCloud raised the issue and told the Peninsula News Review about his experience renewing his licence when he turned 80.

While resigned to the fact that the medical exams would be mandatory, he complained that the fees were not consistent and no hard and fast rules for what doctors can charge for the service were ever set.

MSP does not cover the testing.

Holman added there’s no specific timeline for Mackenzie’s transportation report this year.