Provincial program ‘unacceptable’: MLA Coons

  • Nov. 21, 2011 5:00 p.m.

by Ashlee Morgan–A program required by the province is being called ‘unacceptable’ by MLA Gary Coons. DriveABLE, essentially a driving assessment test, means that seniors living on Haida Gwaii and elsewhere in rural BC, will at some point need to shell out hundreds if not thousands of dollars for travel to update their drivers license. According to its website, DriveABLE is a University of Alberta spin-off company which provides evidence-based practices to identify a medically impaired driver. Under the BC Motor Vehicle Act, the province must ensure that every British Columbian driver is medically fit to drive. DriveABLE is an independent body administering the assessments but the service is not available in all communities. And that’s the problem, according to North Coast MLA Gary Coons. Mr. Coons said seniors living on Haida Gwaii must travel from the islands to Prince George (the closest location the program is available) for an assessment. He said it’s a minimum five-day return trip, costing over $1,500 with ferries, fuel, motels, meals and a mandatory escort. Mr. Coons, along with Dr. Gordon Horner, a physician in Queen Charlotte, said this is unacceptable. In an email from Dr. Gordon Horner to the MLA, he said “I greatly appreciate your diligence in pursuing this issue, and especially noting the prohibitive cost for seniors on a fixed income, not to mention their need to impose on a friend or relative as their (mandatory escort) driver.” When the issue was brought up in the legislature this month, Solicitor General Shirley Bond said “yes, I am concerned. (…) I live in a rural and northern part of British Columbia, and certainly my colleagues have expressed their concerns about DriveABLE.” Bond went on to say that they are “potentially looking at a mobile version of the assessment.” Meaning the closest mobile unit to Haida Gwaii would be located in Terrace. In response, Mr. Coons said “the mobile assessment units won’t cut it.” He said the minister’s own guidelines state that “if a DriveABLE assessment centre is not located nearby, a gerontologist, occupational therapist or a driver rehabilitation specialist may do further assessment.” He said the mobile unit would not meet the guidelines. Mr. Coons wants “fairness to seniors and their families living in remote communities across the province.” The exchange in the legislature ended with Minister Bond inviting MLA Coons to visit her office to discuss possible solutions.

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