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Drivesmart column: Road safety story that tops them all

This gentleman had problems with falling asleep while driving.

By Tim Schewe

Gather a group of traffic enforcement officers for coffee and doughnuts at Tim Hortons and we’ll sit and swap stories about what we have seen and shake our heads in amazement. Sometimes it’s an attempt to avoid PTSD and others it’s because we genuinely can’t believe that someone would behave this way. I think I might have heard one that will be almost impossible to top this past weekend.

The constable I was speaking to told me about an investigation that he had conducted with regard to an older male and his driving ability. This gentleman had problems with falling asleep while driving. Knowing this, he always took his wife along so that when he fell asleep, she could wake him up again. What is really interesting is that this lady is blind. The first notice that she had of her husband falling asleep was the change in vibration as the tires left the pavement.

Imagine the pitfalls in this system! This driver is trapped in our driving oriented society. His wife can’t drive, and if he were to lose his licence, they are both left living in a rural area with no easy access to transportation to fill their daily needs. In a way, he sees himself as forced to struggle to maintain his chosen lifestyle.

His determination to continue to drive rather than giving up his licence on his own has placed everyone on the road at significant risk. His family knew about the situation, but was caught in the same difficulty that many face when their parents are no longer able to drive safely. Do they do something, does the family doctor take responsibility, or do we wait for the police to find out and take action?

RoadSafetyBC, headed by the Superintendent of Motor Vehicles, is responsible for taking action when a case like this is brought to their attention. Anyone can make an unsolicited driver fitness report and the web site states that “Unsolicited reports expressing concerns regarding a driver’s safety on the road are given high priority by RoadSafetyBC.”

Driver fitness in this case is a health condition that prevents a driver from driving properly. Drivers who are healthy but regularly choose to drive in a manner that puts themselves and other road users at risk are not of any interest in terms of an unsolicited driver fitness report. If you try to submit one you will be directed to make your report to the police. End of discussion.

Fitness reports must be submitted in writing and contain as much information that you can give to properly identify the driver and the difficulties that they are suffering from.

You must also identify yourself and provide contact information because all anonymous reports will be refused.

Following a review of the report and the driver’s current driving record, RoadSafetyBC’s response can consist of a medical examination directive, an Enhanced Road Assessment, or licence cancellation depending on what the problem is and whether it can be corrected or not.

If you make a report, unless you know the driver, you will not find out what action, if any, was taken. Provincial privacy legislation prevents RoadSafetyBC from sharing this information with anyone but the driver or a legal designate.

Tim Schewe is a retired constable with many years of traffic law enforcement. To comment or learn more, please visit