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Some seniors question validity of tool that determines safe driving ability
Linda Hoang, CTV Edmonton
Published Friday, March 15, 2013 5:55PM MDT
Last Updated Friday, March 15, 2013 6:23PM MDT
There are frustrations from some Alberta seniors over a test they were asked to take that could mean a loss of their drivers’ license.
The test is called DriveABLE and is meant to act as a tool available to doctors when they feel a patient may have impairments that would make them unsafe drivers.
Those taking the test are asked to complete several tasks on a touch screen computer and now DriveABLE is under fire by critics who say it’s too difficult and is unfair to seniors.
“The test is complicated and nobody can do it,” says senior Ken Jones, who joined a group of other Red Deer seniors to protest the tool.
“DriveABLE is abusing seniors,” says Ruth Adria with the Elder Advocates of Alberta Society.
“We challenge the validity of that test.”
The province says the tool, which was developed at the University of Alberta, is only used when a doctor questions a patient's ability to drive.
“The DriveABLE is for drivers medically at-risk, regardless of their age,” says Transportation Minister Ric MicIvor.
“Doctors can choose to use it or choose not to use it and that decision, I think, rests where it properly belongs, in the hands of the doctors.”
'Do you want to drive if you're cognitively impaired?'
Dr. Allen Dobbs developed the tool – after six years of research at the U of A.
“We wanted the tasks to be easy for people to do and yet, if they had impairment, they would not be successful,” Dobbs said.
He says the system assesses cognitive abilities to accurately measure whether a person can safely drive a vehicle.
“The key there is it looks at things like attention, judgment, decision-making, and memory.” Dobbs said.
“The way that we developed the test was to ensure that healthy, normal people of any age would pass.”
Jones argues most seniors aren’t as familiar with computers to begin with, which puts them at an instant disadvantage.
“Most old people have never used a computer in their life,” he said.
Dobbs says the test is fair and there is no age bias.
“All of our tests are scored against people of their own age so if we get a 90-year-old in, his performance would be scored against a healthy, normal person of 90 years of age,” he said. “We get a 17-year-old in, his performance is scored against a 17-year-old.”
He acknowledges losing a license is a difficult ordeal for a senior but stresses the importance of ensuring unsafe drivers don’t stay on the road.
“Do you want to drive, if you're cognitively impaired? When we talk to healthy, normal people, all of them say, not a chance,” he said.
DriveABLE is currently used in all but two provinces across Canada.
It’s used in 70 different locations in the United States and is also being used in Australia and New Zealand.
With files from Bill Fortier