With an aging population, there are a lot more seniors on the road – as we are living longer, we are also driving longer. This is a good thing as seniors are often our most experienced drivers. However, as we age we are also clearly more vulnerable due to age-related changes to our vision, alertness and sometimes even our confidence. That is the rationale behind a number of laws, regulations, practices and procedures that govern how and when we can drive as we age.
The Superintendent of Motor Vehicles?
The Superintendent of Motor Vehicles (the Superintendent) is delegated the authority, under the Motor Vehicle Act (the MVA) to ensure, by individual assessments, that drivers are medically fit to safely operate a motor vehicle.
Driver’s Medical Examinations
The Superintendent’s policy is that drivers aged 80, and every two years thereafter, are required to complete a Driver’s Medical Examination (DME). Seniors aged 79 and younger may also be required to submit to a DME if the Superintendent receives a credible report, or a report from a medical practitioner, that the senior suffers from a medical condition that makes it dangerous for him or her to drive under section 230 of the MVA. Under the latter, the Superintendent engages in an Urgent Review and may immediately cancel the driver’s licence. The driver has only 21 days from the date of cancellation to have the decision reconsidered and there are no extensions. However, if your medical condition changes after the 21 day period, the cancellation can be reviewed at any time based on updated medical records. If there is insufficient evidence to cancel the licence, the Superintendent may issue a Notice to Cancel or request an urgent assessment.
Depending on the results of the DME, the driver may be required to provide additional information or submit to other examinations, such as an ICBC driver re-exam road test or a DriveABLE assessment. Upon assessment, the Superintendent has the authority to deny, cancel, or restrict any driver’s licence where there is reliable medical evidence that someone has a medical condition which affects that person’s ability to drive safely. The Superintendent may also cancel a driver’s licence if the driver has not complied with a requirement to complete an assessment or exam. In these cases the driver’s licence remains cancelled until the driver complies.
Section 25 of the MVA provides a statutory authority for the Superintendent to determine that applicants for various classes of driver’s licences are able and fit to drive safely, and to require an individual to be examined as to their fitness and ability to drive.
Under subsection 25(3)(b) and (c), a driver’s licence applicant must submit to one or more, as the Superintendent may specify, of the following: “a vision test; medical examinations; other examinations or tests” and “provide the superintendent with other information he or she considers necessary to allow the superintendent to carry out his or her powers, duties and functions”.
Moreover, section 29 of the MVA extends the authority of the Superintendent to require those who have already obtained a driver’s licence to submit to tests or examinations at a time and place. These can include: “a knowledge test; a road test; a road signs and signals test;” or “to be otherwise examined as to the person’s fitness and ability to drive and operate motor vehicles of the category for which he or she is licenced.”
The consequences of failing to comply with the Superintendent’s request can include cancellation of the licence. Section 92 of the MVA authorizes the Superintendent to direct Insurance Corporation of British Columbia (ICBC) to cancel the driver’s licence or impose conditions on any class of driver’s licence if the driver has a medical condition affecting his or her fitness and ability to drive. It also authorizes the Superintendent to direct ICBC to cancel a driver’s licence if the driver does not submit to an examination required by the Superintendent.
Right of Review
The BC Human Rights Tribunal has held that these special requirements for seniors are consistent with the Human Rights Code, Dixon v. B.C. (Ministry of Justice) due to the increased risk of at-fault collisions for seniors over 80 years of age. However, there are other means of appealing the Superintendent’s decisions. The first step is to request a written review of the decision. If you have new medical information indicating an improvement in your condition you should provide this information. An adjudicator or case manager will review your case and may request further information. There is no oral hearing as part of this review. At the conclusion of the review, the adjudicator or case manager will notify you in writing of the decision, which is final and binding.
However, it is still subject to judicial review, which means a court of law may be requested to rule on the appropriateness of the administrative justice decision. If you are dissatisfied with the outcome of the review you should speak with a lawyer about bringing an application under the Judicial Review Procedure Act to have the decision reviewed.
Contact Our British Columbia Personal Injury Lawyers
If you or a loved one is a senior who has been injured in a motor vehicle accident, our office can help. At Bronson Jones we are experienced BC car accident lawyers who have represented many seniors in the past. Contact us today at 1-855-852-5100 for a consultation for your case. We have 2 offices in Vancouver and 11 other locations across British Columbia dealing with personal injury accidents in B.C.