In order to drive safely, no matter what our age, we need to be able to think and react quickly.
If our cognitive processes become impaired -- as a result of a medical condition or medications we’re taking -- our ability to drive safely can be significantly affected, and that can have devastating consequences.
In an effort to make our roads safer, the Office of the Superintendent of Motor Vehicles uses DriveABLE assessments to help determine if drivers with a suspected cognitive impairment are safe to continue driving.
Before DriveABLE was introduced as an assessment tool, the Superintendent often had to make licensing decisions based only on a physician’s medical diagnosis of cognitive impairment (e.g., Alzheimer’s or other types of dementia). By utilizing DriveABLE assessments, drivers with a suspected cognitive impairment are now individually functionally assessed, and if a cognitive issue is shown to not affect their ability to drive safely, they are allowed to continue driving.
Developed in Alberta, DriveABLE is a research‐based, scientific assessment tool which is used across North America to measure how well we remember, reason, and react – the functions essential for safe driving.
A DriveABLE assessment is similar to an eye or hearing test; you cannot study to pass one.
The requirement to undertake a DriveABLE assessment is not related to age. Only drivers with reported cognitive impairment are referred by the Superintendent to have a DriveABLE assessment.
There are two DriveABLE assessments: an in-office assessment which is performed on a touch-sensitive screen (no computer experience is necessary; a mouse and keyboard are never used), and an on-road evaluation which is conducted in a dual-brake vehicle. A driver who passes the in-office assessment does not need to have an on-road evaluation. A driver who does not pass the in-office assessment is offered a secondary opportunity to demonstrate their cognitive fitness to continue driving through an on-road evaluation.
The Office of the Superintendent of Motor Vehicles pays the cost of all DriveABLE assessments it requests.
The DriveABLE Process
The Office of the Superintendent of Motor Vehicles (OSMV) receives a report (98% of the time from a physician; other times from a police officer or family member) that an individual is thought to have a medical condition that makes them unsafe to drive.
a) Makes a licensing decision based on the information received, or
b) Requests additional medical information or refers an individual for specific medical tests or assessments.
In the case of a suspected cognitive impairment, the individual is referred for a DriveABLE assessment. OSMV covers the cost, and the individual is directed to book an appointment by calling the DriveABLE Access Line, toll-free at 1‐888‐475‐4666.
The individual has an in‐office DriveABLE assessment. If they pass, the results are submitted to OSMV. If the individual does not pass the in‐office assessment, they are offered an opportunity to take a secondary DriveABLE on‐road evaluation.
DriveABLE assessment results are submitted to OSMV and, subject to the person’s consent, also to their physician.
An OSMV Adjudicator reviews medical information on file, the results of any in‐office medical assessment by a physician, and the DriveABLE assessment results, and then makes a licensing decision. A letter is then mailed to the individual notifying them of the decision.
The requirement to undertake a DriveABLE assessment is not related to the age of a driver. Only drivers with reported cognitive function concerns are referred by OSMV to have a DriveABLE assessment. Drivers are referred primarily (98% of the time) by medical practitioners who have already conducted an in‐office screening assessment and have concerns about a patient’s cognitive functioning and ability to continue to drive safely.
What do I need to bring with me to the in-office assessment?
Please bring your OSMV referral letter, your driver’s licence, and, if you wear them, your reading glasses or glasses you use when looking at a computer.
What happens after my in-office assessment?
The person who guided you through your assessment will not be able to tell you if you passed. Your results will be electronically scored and forwarded to OSMV. If you pass, subject to a review of other medical issues that could affect your ability to drive safely, you will receive a letter informing you that it is safe for you to continue driving. If you did not pass, you will receive a letter offering you a DriveABLE on-road evaluation, which provides you with another opportunity to demonstrate that you have the required level of cognitive functioning to drive safely.
Why do you recommend I not drive until I get my results after having a DriveABLE assessment?
You are only referred for a DriveABLE assessment if a physician has reported concerns about your cognitive ability to continue to drive safely. There unfortunately have been instances where drivers have caused crashes after their assessment but before the receipt of their results. Therefore, as a precaution, we recommend you not drive until OSMV can review your results and advise if it is safe for you to drive.
Should I practice before my DriveABLE assessment?
A DriveABLE assessment is similar to a vision or hearing test; you cannot study to pass it. DriveABLE does not measure your driving skills, but rather, assesses cognitive functions needed for safe driving such as memory, attention span, reaction time, spatial judgement, and decision-making.
How do you decide if I can continue to drive?
The results of your in-office assessment and on-road evaluation (if you had one), together with your medical information are all reviewed by an adjudicator, who makes the licensing decision. OSMV adjudicators strive to respect your mobility wishes and make fair and reasonable decisions, while ensuring public safety for all road users.
After I have my DriveABLE assessment, when will I find out if it’s safe for me to continue driving?
Because each file is individually reviewed, it can take four to six weeks after your DriveABLE assessment before you receive a letter in the mail from OSMV notifying you of the decision.
I only ever drive short distances in town - is a restricted licence available?
Unfortunately, for drivers with cognitive impairments, there is no restriction that could adequately address larger public safety concerns. When a driver becomes cognitively impaired, they lose the insight to know when it’s safe to drive, and can no longer recognize when their driving behaviour is unsafe. This is the most difficult aspect of cognitive impairment -- a person who has been an extremely capable driver their entire life, is no longer a good judge of their own driving. If a driver struggles to process information, driving restrictions such as only driving during daylight hours, driving only within 10km of their home, or on roads with lower speed limits, will not be effective. A driver with a cognitive impairment is unsafe, whether they’re driving in their own residential neighbourhood, or on a busy highway.
If I lose my licence after a DriveABLE assessment, can I appeal the decision?
Yes. If you feel you have experienced an improvement in your cognitive functioning since your assessment, ask your doctor to send details of your improvement to OSMV, and we will re-assess your fitness to drive. This most often happens after someone no longer needs to take certain medications following surgery or other medical procedures. Alternatively, if you disagree with a licensing decision, you may write to the Superintendent, to request a review of the decision.
How much does DriveABLE cost?
OSMV pays the full costs of the DriveABLE assessment(s) for drivers they refer. In other provinces drivers are responsible for paying the cost of DriveABLE assessments.
Can I call someone to get answers to my DriveABLE questions?
Yes. You can call OSMV toll-free at 1-855-387-7747 from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. weekdays and speak to one of our driver fitness experts. Outside of those hours, you can call and leave a message, and we will call you back the next business day.
"What is DriveABLE?" explains how this program helps keep roads safe by assessing drivers as their health changes. This video was created in 2011 using 2010 referral volume data.
"Why DriveABLE?" discusses how DriveABLE identifies high-risk drivers by using an evidence-based assessment tool. This video was created in 2011 using 2010 referral volume data.
DriveABLE assessments are currently available in 28 BC communities, and we are working to expand service to additional communities. DriveABLE assessments are currently available in: Abbotsford, Burnaby, Campbell River, Chilliwack, Coquitlam, Courtenay, Cranbrook, Dawson Creek, Duncan, Kamloops, Kelowna, Langford, Nanaimo, Nelson, North Vancouver, Penticton, Port Alberni, Powell River, Prince George, Richmond, Salmon Arm, Sechelt, Surrey, Terrace, Vancouver, Vernon, Victoria and Williams Lake.
Please note that pins do not indicate actual office locations, and are for illustrative purposes only.
To book a DriveABLE assessment, or to change or check on a booking, call toll-free: 1-888-475-4666.