Split views over introducing additional driving tests for seniors

Split views over introducing additional driving tests for seniors
Road Safety Department director-general Datuk Dr Tam Weng Wah.

PETALING JAYA - An 80-year-old taxi driver is missing, a 61-year-old women crashes into a convenience store and a 70-year-old man slams into a bank.

Which leads us to the question - should senior citizens go for a retest and mandatory medical check-ups to ensure that they are fit to drive?

Other countries such as Singapore, the UK and Australia have introduced similar tests.

Taxi driver Nordin Mohd Som, 68, said a retest is good for all quarters and urged senior citizens to take an open view if a retest is implemented for them.

"A retest is for our own good and also for everybody's good. I do not know if other drivers would accept it but if you ask me, it is a good move to implement.

"There are some drivers who are really experienced and good but at the end of the day, whether you are experienced or not, the slightest of errors can be fatal. They can minimise that by going for a retest," said Nordin.

On Jan 18, an honest mistake sent the car of a 70-year-old man crashing into a bank in Damansara Uptown on Sunday evening, shattering glass panels before hitting a wall next to the bank's ATMs.

Two days later, an 80-year-old taxi driver, who has 20 grandchildren and three great-grandchildren, went missing in Kajang together with his vehicle.

On Feb 3, a 61-year-old woman escaped unhurt when the vehicle she was travelling in crashed into the convenience store of a petrol station in Jalan PJU 1A/20.

Nordin urged the authorities to conduct new driving exams alongside thorough medical tests for drivers who have exceeded the age of 60.

"I have a friend who is 75 and still drives a taxi. He goes for medical check-ups to ensure he is fit to drive.

"Thus, I urge the authorities to have mandatory medical check-ups for all drivers especially the senior citizens. A psychology test should also be conducted to ensure they are mentally alert at all times," said Nordin

Road Safety Department director-general Datuk Dr Tam Weng Wah on the other hand believes that age should not be used as criteria to retest drivers.

"It would be better if drivers who regularly commit traffic offences be retrained and retested as a form of rehabilitation. Using age as a criteria is quite subjective as it depends on individuals.

"As long as the drivers are healthy and fit to drive, they should be allowed to.

However, we feel there might be a need for greater education and advisory on what aged drivers should be aware of," said Dr Tan.

Some 556 people over the age of 60 died due to road accidents in 2013; according to statistics compiled by the Bukit Aman traffic police division.

Approximately 11 per cent of the 5, 213 deaths recorded were from the ages of 61 and above and it increased by 7 per cent compared to 2012.

In Singapore, drivers aged 65 and above will need to undergo an annual medical examination to be done by a Singapore registered medical practitioner in Singapore.

According to the Singapore Traffic Police website, once they are certified fit to drive the particular class of vehicle, they will need to undergo a proficiency driving test and if they pass the test, their driving licence will be validated.

In the United Kingdom all drivers have to renew their driving licence when they reach the age of 70 and every three years from then on.

Completing the renewal form means that they make a self-declaration, using their own judgement to state that they are still fit to drive. They do not need to go through a retest or medical test when they renew their licence.

In South Australia, if you are 85 years of age or older and hold a class of licence other than a 'car' you will need to pass a practical driving test each year to retain that class of licence.

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