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Recommendations for Driver Assessment

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Letter from Concerned Albertan, Rena Braund

Box 332 Plamondon, AB T0A 2T0

September 3, 2012

Assistant Deputy Minister
Transportation Safety Services
4999-98 Avenue NW
Edmonton, AB, T6B 2X3

Attention: Shaun Hammond

Dear Sir:

This is a follow-up to our August 21, 2012 meeting with you, the Minister of Transport and Ruth Adria & company. Your interest and concern regarding the matter of unnecessary loss of drivers’ licenses is much appreciated. As per your request, here are my recommendations regarding the SIMARD MD test, and the procedures we followed in order to regain my husband’s operators’ license.

As a veteran teacher of 33 years, I have administered assessment tests to students with learning difficulties, behavioral problems, etc…Upon studying the SIMARD MD test given to my husband, Bob (from which Dr. Crum determined that there was a gray area in his cognitive skills and decided that his operators’ license be revoked), I concluded it was an unfair and invalid measure to determine any anyone’s competency in driving.

At the beginning of the test, the examiner slowly reads a list of 10 words asking the client to repeat as many words as possible. Most people are quite successful in doing so. The examiner repeats the same words and again the client repeats as many words as he/she can and in most cases the client does even better than the first time, as in the case of my husband. No scores are given at this point.

The first task to be scored is to write 2 numerals in word form as in writing a cheque. This is an acceptable question as it is significant in a person’s day-to-day life.

The second question is to name in one minute as many items as one can remember that can be bought in a supermarket. For many men this is something they may not be very familiar with, as it is usually the wife who does the household shopping, especially among the older population. In addition, not all rural people have had access to supermarkets all their lives, so they have a tendency to group items such as: meat, vegetables, fruit, condiments, dairy products, etc… falling short of the perfect score of 30 items in the one minute. Thus I find this a discriminating question for many senior rural people.

The last task is to recall and name the 10 words given at the beginning of the test. Not having been told that these words would have to be recalled at a later time, most people’s scores will be very low. These unrelated irrelevant words have very little significance to them; therefore the need to put these to memory is not important. For each recalled word 8 points are allotted. Because there is so much weight given to this part of the test, this is where most individuals score very low, in the case of my husband. In a sense, this is almost setting up a person for failure, something that I, as a professional, abhor.

My husband was administered 5 tests: EXIT, MOCA, MMSE, Geriatric Depression Scale, and the SIMARD MD. He scored well in the normal range in all first four tests, but scored low on the SIMARD MD. This is the test that caused us so much grief, as this is the one test from which Dr. Crum concluded that he was “incompetent to drive”. She then told him he was not allowed to drive until he went for the Driveable Assessment. She didn’t take into consideration that the other tests were all in the normal range. To have drawn a conclusion on one of five tests didn’t make sense to us; it seemed very unjust. Therefore, we didn’t accept this verdict, nor did any of our friends, family & acquaintances.

This led me to experiment. As my husband is very very competent driver, I wanted to find out if, in fact, this test was a valid indicator for driving competency. (In actuality, I wanted to prove that this was not a valid indicator of one’s driving competency.) I approached some professionals (including a high profile MLA) and a few other responsible citizens in our community who held a range of occupations, and asked if they would be agreeable to take a short test, as I was doing some research. All collaborated in taking the 5-minute test. All those questioned are considered by themselves and others to be competent drivers. It was not surprising to me that a good number of them would have had to be referred to Driveable Assessment. This did not make sense to anyone of us. The incriminating question was always the third one asking for delayed recall of words that have no relevancy to most people.

The SIMARD MD is a pilot-screening test for the Driveable Assessment Program, a private for profit third party. Although it is denied that it targets seniors, it is strange that it is mostly seniors who get referred. It should also be noted that the largest percentage of automobile accidents do not involve seniors, as it is not commonly seniors who speed exceedingly, who drive intoxicated causing horrible fatalities, who take undue risks of passing on solid lines, or get pulled over for distracted driving such as using cell phones, texting, etc… My recommendation is for the government to legislate the abolishment of the use of the SIMARD MD test to assess driving ability and the pilot Driveable Assessment Program.

It is unfortunate that some doctors are using this as a tool to quickly process patients through this avenue and avoid their responsibility in making good decisions for their patients. I also recommend that before anyone is referred to Driveable Assessment that the patient be allowed to seek a second opinion, and that more thorough evaluation is done before stripping one’s license to drive. The SIMARD MD and Driveable Assessment Program have entrapped too many seniors who do not have the resources to clear themselves. Many are not competent on a computer so they feel intimidated by one, and if they do not pass the in-office computer test, they cannot do the road test to prove their ability to drive. Thus, it strips them of their rights. I believe we live in a democratic province with a government that is elected to work for the good of its people. I truly beg you to look closely at the atrocity to which some of our people are being subjected. One day, if changes do not occur, you and I may find ourselves entrapped in this program.

You also asked what procedures we took to have my husband’s operator’s license reinstated. Therefore, I’ve enclosed documentation of the whole agonizing process: the consultation with our lawyer, with a second doctor’s assessment, and a 2 hour Psychological Assessment at our own expense which proved that my husband, Bob, is cognitively sound. No citizen of Alberta should have to go to such measures to regain one’s drivers’ license because of an incriminating test of 3 questions deeming him or her incompetent in driving.

I trust, that you will consider my recommendations for the well being of senior Albertans.

Yours truly,

Rena M Braund

Letter to Minister of Transportation

August 8, 2012

Via Facsimile 780 422 2722

Honourable Mr. Ric McIvor,
Minister of Transportation,
425 Legislature Building
10800 97 Avenue
Edmonton, AB, Canada T5K 2B6

Dear Mr. Minister:

Thank you for graciously meeting with us in the lovely Carillon Room on the morning of the 21st of August, 2012 in regard to driver licensing issues.

We anticipate the assistance which your staff will render to Albertans, who seeking to renew their licenses, were unjustly subjected to the Simard MD and DriveAble protocol.

We look forward to working with you and your office to remedy the present morass which has been created throughout the province.

Thank you again.

Yours truly,

Elder Advocates of Alberta Society

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