Sooke resident Richard Jones wants seniors to be able to take their road test in Sooke. (Dawn Gibson/Sooke News Mirror)

Activist says seniors should not have to drive far to their road test

Sooke man hopes to have driver’s tests conducted locally

A Sooke activist is pushing the provincial government to allow seniors to take their road test closer to home.

When seniors reach 80 years old, they are required to undergo a medical examination and redo their road test to ensure they can still safely operate a motor vehicle. But the only place seniors can retake their test is in Victoria, which Richard Jones would like to change.

“To get a letter in the mail saying you have to redo your driving test is intimidating to begin with, but a lot of Sooke seniors don’t realize that the only place to redo the test is in Victoria, where most Sooke seniors don’t drive anyways,” said Jones, adding the test takes up an entire morning to do, and some seniors avoid trying to retake the test because they are scared to drive in the high-volume traffic in Victoria.

“After 75, life is a lot different, and driving downtown is a nightmare.”

Jones has approached the local seniors group, Sooke council, and the provincial government, proposing to have a driving examiner come out to Sooke once in a while to give seniors a chance to take the road test in their own community.

“It’s a lot easier on seniors’ health to do the test in Sooke,” said Jones. “Because Sooke doesn’t have the same level of transit as other municipalities do, so for some seniors, driving is necessary to get to appointments, the store, or anywhere really. And most seniors that I’ve talked to rarely ever drive outside Sooke, so why should they take their test somewhere that they won’t be driving?”

Sooke Coun.Rick Kasper, who is also council’s representative for the seniors group, said he agrees with Jones, and council has written a letter of support to the government.

“We have an aging population in Sooke, and that number is going to increase rapidly in coming years,” said Kasper.

The government responded to Jones and council’s letter, saying there isn’t enough of a demand in Sooke, and that other places in B.C. have it worse, so bringing an examiner to Sooke wouldn’t be necessary.

“Unfortunately, decisions about which communities are able to offer the enhanced road assessment was made based on the projected number of assessments to be conducted,” said Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth in a letter to Jones. “Historically, Sooke has not had a great enough number of re-examinations to enable ICBC to offer the ERA directly in Sooke.”

Kasper said he intends to bring the issue up at the Union of B.C. Municipalities conference this fall.

“If some people only want to drive in their community, that should be taken into consideration,” said Kasper. “And where there is a political will, there is a way. The government just needs to think outside the box.”

He suggested the government could look at putting a restriction on seniors’ licenses who don’t want to take the test in Victoria, such as only being able to drive within a certain distance from Sooke, or only during daylight hours.

“It’s important to do something, especially because of the issue of isolation,” said Kasper. “Cutting off another form of mobility for seniors because they are afraid to take the test, lessens their opportunity to interact, and in turn, I think that could have a detrimental impact on seniors’ well-being.”

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