Edmonton-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
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
ones 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 Alzheimers 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 theyre 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.
"Were 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 wed 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.
DriveABLEs 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
DriveABLEs 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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