British Columbia

B.C. senior loses driver's licence after miscommunication

A B.C. senior says she has lost her independence after being required to re-take her driver's licence test, and then failing it — two outcomes she's blaming on a lack of language skills, not driving skills.

84-year-old woman speaks Finnish best, made mistakes in English driving test

Senior loses driver's licence

CBC News Vancouver at 6

8 years ago
84-year-old woman says it is a misunderstanding with her doctor 2:17

A B.C. senior says she has lost her independence after being required to re-take her driver's licence test and then failing it — two outcomes she's blaming on a lack of language skills, not driving skills.

Aino Leskinen, 84, came to Canada from Finland when she was 33. She couldn't speak English, but could drive.

Over the years, her English improved — but she admits her English still isn't the best. During a doctor's visit, her doctor misunderstood her inquiry about Alzheimer's as a request to be re-evaluated for her driving ability.

Then, she failed the province's DriveABLE test, which is meant to measure cognitive abilities.

"I'm not English. I did not understood those questions. No, I speak everyday language, but that's it," said Leskinen, whose first language is Finnish.

Now, she's left without a valid licence and can't run even the simplest errands for herself.

"Very hard. If I having something missing in my house, I want to cook or bake something, I cannot go to get it," she said.

Her doctor, understanding the miscommunication about her inquiry, even wrote to the Office of the Superintendent of Motor Vehicles, admitting the referral for testing "was an unfortunate mistake on my part."

But once the initial referral was made, Leskinen's case entered into the process and it couldn't be cancelled, the office said.

Leskinen said there is nothing wrong with her health that would affect her driving.

"DriveABLE, that's not for me. That's for sick people and I'm not sick," she said.

Leskinen went public and after her story appeared in newspapers, others wrote her about similar problems — many upset about being re-evaluated after age 80 and many upset about being forced to take the DriveABLE test.

Lorraine Logan, second vice-president of the Council of Senior Citizens' of B.C., said she's heard the complaint about the DriveABLE test from other seniors.

"Some people just go blank when they're asked these questions because they understand the ramifications. This is it: If I don't do this, I am going to lose my driver's licence."

The province says it has to make sure drivers remain safe as they age. ICBC says on a per-kilometre basis, older drivers have higher crash and fatality rates than other drivers.

B.C.'s Superintendent of Motor Vehicles says for privacy reasons he can't comment on Leskinen's case specifically, but said people being tested can bring a friend or family member to help them if there are language problems.

He also said he's willing to listen, if a person's medical condition improves.

Leskinen isn't giving up. Her driving instructor spoke with CBC News Friday, said she's a good driver and is ready for her road test.

With files from the CBC's Kirk Williams


To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.

Become a CBC Member

Join the conversationCreate account

Already have an account?