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Unreliable driving test a ‘crapshoot’ for most seniors

Home > Senior Driving Issues > Unreliable driving test a ‘crapshoot’ for most seniors

By Gillian Slade on December 4, 2014.

gslade@medicinehatnews.com @MHNGillianSlade
The cognitive test some seniors are asked to take in their doctor’s office is so unreliable in assessing their skills to drive a vehicle that it has no value, says a physician.

The SimardMD test is a very rapid pencil and paper test designed to see if a person can follow instructions and do some simple problem solving, said Dr. Maurice Simpson of Lethbridge, who is regularly a resource person for the Alberta Medical Association, and has been part of a group with Driver Fitness and Monitoring to redesign the physician’s drivers medical form.

The SimardMD results reveal the following.

“People in the top 30 per cent have about a 90 per cent chance of passing a road test,” said Simpson. “The people in the bottom 30 per cent have a 90 per cent chance that they will fail the road test. For the ones in the middle it is a crapshoot.”

A number of physicians routinely use SimardMD including HealthWORX medical clinic. Anyone over the age of 75 coming in for a medical report to renew a drivers license is given the SimardMD test, said Carel Liebenberg office manager.

The SimardMD test was developed at the University of Alberta in 2010 to assist the medical community in identifying the cognitively impaired at-risk driver.

“With all the best intentions of the people who developed it, it’s been widely promoted, but I’m not sure it has been put into practice in the most optimal way,” said Simpson.

The relationship between SimardMD and the DriveABLE tests has raised significant flags “in a financial and almost incestuous way,” said Simpson.

Ruth Adria, spokesperson for Elder Advocates of Alberta Society says she feels the intent is that you score low and are then referred to DriveABLE for a test that is going to cost about $250.

“We allege this to be a massive, sophisticated, multi-million dollar scam, perpetrated against the older citizens of this province by government and private interests,” said Adria. “It has to be understood that seniors are being abused by a corrupt protocol.”

Even though SimardMD and DriveAble are not required by Alberta Transport, the results may be used by the registrar of Motor Vehicles to determine someone’s ability to drive safely.

That these are then used in determining a senior’s capacity is unfair, said Blake Pedersen, MLA for Medicine Hat.

Cypress-Medicine Hat constituents have told MLA Drew Barnes they distrust these tests.

“The government needs to take a position on this,” said Barnes.

“BC requires DriveABLE tests and Alberta doesn’t,” said Simpson.

It’s the knowledge of the person, the way they answer questions, the speed at which they think, the consistency of their account that gives physicians an intuitive sense of whether the person may have some difficulties driving, said Simpson.

That would perhaps take more time for the physician.

“Alberta Health only pays a fee to physicians for a seven-minute screening test,” said Simpson.

If you would like to tell your own experience please contact Gillian Slade at 403-528-8635 or by email: gslade@medicinehatnews.com

Additional stories on this topic to follow.




Reporting medically at-risk drivers

Even though Alberta Transportation does not endorse SimardMD and Drive ABLE it has a form to submit details of the results.

“Based on the patient’s medical history … and results from the SIMARD MD, I strongly recommend that driving privileges be suspended,” one box to be ticked by a physician reads.

Another says: “Based on the patient’s medical history … and indeterminate results from the SIMARD MD, I have recommended a DriveABLE assessment. The patient has refused to have a DriveABLE assessment. I strongly recommend that driving privileges be suspended.”

The final box says: “Based on the patient’s … indeterminate results from the SIMARD MD and failure on the DriveABLE assessment, I have asked this patient to stop driving and strongly recommend that driving privileges be suspended.”

Medically At-Risk Driver Screening Form

This form indicates it was developed by an Edmonton PCN based on literature by B. Dobbs (who helped to developed the SimardMD)

Flags: (If any one flag checked administer SIMARD MD)

1. 70 years old or over

2. Family concerns about driving

3. The presence of one or more of ta listed number of medical conditions

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