Powell River-Sunshine Coast MLA Nicholas Simons is pressing government for an independent review of the DriveABLE program, which assesses a senior’s ability to drive, because he says it’s only accurate half of the time.
“Nobody’s got an issue with taking drivers off the road who should be, but when you’ve got the validity of a test that proves to be about 50 per cent accurate, you might as well flip a coin and save the taxpayers some money,” Simons told Coast Reporter this week. “It’s actually 50.4 per cent accurate so I’m giving it short shrift.”
He said the low accuracy rate was found by a professor in Ontario.
“The only study we have on DriveABLE was done by its inventor, Allan Dobbs, and his claim of accuracy has been disputed by a senior researcher from Lakehead University, a professor, who says that using Allan Dobbs’ own data, because that’s all we have, he’s actually misanalyzed his own data and he’s the one that has determined that it’s about 50.4 per cent accurate,” Simons said.
Simons met with Superintendent of Motor Vehicles Sam MacLeod and Attorney General Suzanne Anton in November to ask them for an independent review of DriveABLE, in light of the findings.
“Neither the SIMARD-MD [an in-office test doctors use to assess cognitive ability] nor the DriveABLE tests had been peer-reviewed, when our province became the first and only jurisdiction to incorporate them into official policy,” Simons told MacLeod and Anton in a letter at that meeting.
In the letter he also highlighted the fact that the person who wrote B.C.’s guide to assess a senior’s ability to drive “was also the designer of the SIMARD-MD and the wife of DriveABLE’s founder and part-owner.”
Calling it “nothing more than a money grab,” Simons said, “I think that this is one of the worst public policies that we have in B.C.”
“I think it’s abusive to seniors. I think if you look at information on seniors and their maintenance of independence, when a senior who is capable of driving loses their licence, their health deteriorates quickly. And I think that many British Columbia seniors have had their independence taken from them prematurely, unfairly and without any scientific or medical justification,” Simons said.
He’s angry the government isn’t pulling the program or at least reviewing it to ensure its validity.
“It makes me so angry that with the information I’ve provided them, they haven’t cancelled this program already,” Simons said.
MacLeod told Coast Reporter he was “aware of MLA Simons’ concerns.”
“During our meeting, Minister Anton said we would continue to review the delivery and results of our driver cognitive assessment program to ensure it delivers value,” MacLeod said. “This ongoing review will include looking at other tools and delivery models as they become available.”
MacLeod said the DriveABLE program was the only option for government when they were looking for “a service provider that could deliver functional cognitive assessment services” in 2012.
“Two suppliers submitted responses to the procurement process, and Insight Solutions was the only applicant that met the qualifications outlined in the procurement documents, including the requirement to deliver on-site assessment services in 28 locations across the province,” MacLeod said.
While he didn’t dispute Simons’ claims of accuracy, MacLeod said DriveABLE was the best option available.
“In concert with the screening tools used by medical practitioners, DriveABLE is currently the most effective functional assessment tool we have available to further assess a driver’s cognitive function as it relates to driving,” he said.
Simons said he will keep raising his issues with the DriveABLE program until it is independently reviewed and justified.
The DriveABLE program has two parts, consisting of a touch screen computer test and an on-road test. Seniors are referred to the program by their doctors if cognitive decline is suspected. Seniors are also automatically referred at age 80.