Senior drivers face tests

Seniors who turn 75 need to know their medical ability to drive may be tested by family physicians.

Seniors who turn 75 need to know their medical ability to drive may be tested by family physicians.

“I don’t have any problem with them doing some type of mini mental exam,” said Darlene Dushanek of Delburne.

“If they did that same exam to young or middle-aged drivers, a lot of people would fail.”

Dushanek and her sister invited Ruth Adria of the Elder Advocates of Alberta Society to speak about the testing Tuesday. More than 100 people attended at the Delburne Seniors Drop-In Centre.

Dushanek’s father’s doctor had him take a written Simard MD test from the University of Alberta’s Medically At-Risk Driver Centre to evaluate his driving cognition.

She said her father’s in good health and didn’t see the need for the test.

“To me, seniors aren’t the highest risk drivers on our roads.”

Alberta Transportation spokesman Trent Bancarz said drivers need a doctor’s report to renew their licences when they turn 75, again at 80 and every two years after that at a minimum to ensure they aren’t at risk to drive medically impaired.

“These are the only age triggers we have. We assess people as individuals. You can be medically at risk at 42, (but) there are some things that tend to be more prevalent as they get older.”

The department’s website lists cardiovascular, renal, nervous system and metabolic diseases plus medication effects as possibly interfering with vehicle operation.

Ruth Adria contends the Simard MD test can be failed by anyone who takes it and if ordered by a doctor, its follow up — called DriveABLE and costing $200 to the driver at the Red Deer Regional Hospital Centre – is confusing to many seniors because it’s computerized.

“This is a big, big issue. It’s causing extreme distress and anguish. It’s elder abuse at its finest.”

Bancarz said Alberta Transportation doesn’t tell doctors to use any specific test “because they are the medical professionals.

“Those decisions are made by them as to which way they’ll evaluate their clients. Same with DriveABLE.

“We do take the results of that testing into account along with driving records, road tests and medical information.”

Red Deer senior Sam Denhaan brought the issue up Saturday at the Wildrose party’s seniors consultations. While he agrees some means of assessing older drivers is necessary, the government hasn’t well publicized the medical need at age 75.

Dushanek said the Delburne meeting at least informed area seniors about the testing.

rfiedler@bprda.wpengine.com