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DriveABLE Assessment

Allen DobbsEdmonton-based DriveABLE Assessment Centres have found a niche based on solid science to help test the driving abilities of medically unfit drivers and provide objective evidence for doctors and drivers’ families.

Scientist Allen Dobbs, creator of DriveABLE assessment, has engaged in years of research to prepare for the imminent demographic shift. Dobbs acknowledges that while certain medical conditions can affect one’s driving skills, "diagnosis is a very poor predictor of driving." Instead, Dobbs has developed an easily accessible driving assessment system.

The assessment system is based on research that was done with both healthy, normal drivers and drivers who were identified as having medical problems that affected their ability.

While aging related ailments like dementia linked to Alzheimer’s disease are responsible for cognitive impairment, other conditions can affect drivers’ mental abilities, Dobbs says. "We get people who have head injuries, or they may have something like epilepsy and now they’re on a drug regime," which affects their driving ability, he says.

The $200 assessment is based on two parts. The first step is an in-office test that is designed to test a series of mental abilities, including memory, that are relevant for safe driving.

"We’re able to identify about half the people in the office as would pass, or would fail," Dobbs says. If someone has inconclusive results from the office test, "then we’d make the decision to go out on the road. We really use the road test as our absolute gold standard," he says. "The road test is not just a road test. We compare cognitively impaired drivers with healthy drivers," based on standards identified through previous research, he says.

DriveABLE’s target market is not professional or fleet drivers, who tend to have frequent testing built into licence requirements; its focus is on the millions of regular drivers who may be affected by cognitive impairment, he says.

The insurance industry has become much more aware of the issue of medically unfit drivers; at least one Canadian insurance company, the Co-Operators, is giving DriveABLE a promotional boost. In a Co-Operators brochure entitled "Your Health & Safe Driving", the various medical conditions which seriously affect driving abilities are listed, along with a gentle reminder that "when a person seems unaware of their driving errors, family members or the doctor must intervene." The brochure gives contact information for DriveABLE’s Edmonton head office as well as eight assessment centres across Canada.

Since its 1998 start in Edmonton, DriveABLE has expanded into British Columbia, Ontario, Quebec and Nova Scotia, New York state and Florida.

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