03/16/2012 03:59 EDT | Updated 05/16/2012 05:12 EDT

Access to DriveABLE test concerns elderly B.C. drivers

Elderly drivers in B.C. say changes to rules evaluating driver fitness are unfair for people who live in rural areas, because of limited access to testing facilities.

The rules were changed in 2010 so that once drivers reach age 80, they are required to go through a driver fitness test every two years. The test starts with their family doctor and a report sent to the Office of the Superintendent of Motor Vehicles.

That office then decides if the elderly driver needs to undergo a DriveABLE test, a touch screen computer program that helps assess a driver's cognitive skills.

The problem for many elderly drivers in rural areas is access to the DriveABLE test. There are only three locations in the B.C. interior: Prince George, Kamloops and Kelowna.

Ellen Carlson, 81, lives in Golden B.C., and that means for her to take the DriveABLE test, she would have to drive five hours away over snowy passes.

"It's lousy. Quite often you don't get out of Golden from November till March 'cause the roads are closed," said Carlson.

Local NDP MLA Norm Macdonald says he's getting lots of calls about DriveABLE from seniors who say it is unfair they have to travel so far. Many also feel the test itself is questionable, he says.

"This is a cost issue for seniors, but it's more than that. It's a huge issue if they lose their licence for a system that's not fair," said MacDonald.

MacDonald will join Powell River-Sunshine Coast NDP MLA Nicholas Simons to meet with seniors at public meetings in Kimberley and Cranbrook to discuss their concerns on Friday.