I am writing in response to Stuart Pearke’s letter in the April 2 Rimbey Review.
Mr. Pearke is entirely correct that Alberta Transportation does not require individuals over the age of 74 to complete a SIMARD MD or DriveAble. However, Alberta Transportation does require all individuals over the age of 74 (as well as individuals seeking certain license classes, and individuals with certain medical conditions) to have a Medical Examination for Motor Vehicle Operators. Physicians are asked to complete a form with specific information relevant to an individual’s ability to drive. Physicians use a variety of tools to answer the questions. Just like a physician would use a blood pressure machine to answer the question about blood pressure, and an eye chart to answer the question about visual acuity, a physician may use a SIMARD MD to answer the questions about memory dysfunction and dementia.
The SIMARD MD is a simple office test that costs patients nothing and the developers of it provide it free to physicians. It was scientifically tested and correlated well with actual driving performance. It can be completed on drivers of any age, as there is proof that multiple medical problems can also contribute to being an unsafe driver. The test provides a numerical score that puts the individual into one of three categories (it is not a pass/fail as Mr. Pearke suggests). The test is not meant to replace a physician’s clinical judgment. Based on its result, and the rest of the results from the medical exam, a physician will make a recommendation whether the individual should have a road test. That road test may or may not be done through DriveAble.
The goal of medical exams for drivers is to keep our roads as safe as possible. As a physician, I will continue to use the tools at my disposal, including SIMARD MD, to make the best possible assessments.
Christine Ellis, MD