Should a medical test be needed to drive in old age?

More than 800 people aged 65-plus, including pedestrians, died in road accidents in 2018, compared to 503 adults aged 18-24, official French government figures show.

25 September 2019
By Connexion journalist

There is a constant debate about the abilities of older drivers, notably after several serious accidents.

In October 2018, a 92-year-old lost control of his car and injured seven people. A petition demanding a test for older people received more than 100,000 signatures.

However, statistics from the state’s Sécurité Routière show that older people are less responsible for accidents than younger people.

In 2017, the standard profile of a driver causing fatal accidents was a man in 83% of cases and aged 20 to 30 in over a third of cases (31%).

In some countries, licences have to be renewed with a medical test. In Italy, drivers have to take a test every 10 years, and more regularly after the age of 50.

The UK asks its drivers to renew their licence every three years from the age of 70.

Should France follow a similar scheme? 

 

FOR

Bertrand Déroulède, consultant and founder of a petition for older people to be tested  - see tinyurl.com/y59pvk65

The test needs to be related to teaching. Driving is complicated. You need to control the car, and handle technical and emotional matters.

We all go through a moment when we are not in a good shape to drive but we do it anyway. It is a real problem and it is difficult to tell yourself that you are not able to drive.

From a certain age, for example at 70, a medical visit should be mandatory.

We should have a test on three different things: a physical test, to check that we are still able to move the head from right to left or even enter the car without difficulties; a sensory test to check sight and hearing; and a cognitive test for our brain.

We are given a driving licence valid for life but we should be controlled, just like cars have to pass the MOT test to check that everything is good.

Older people are less likely to be responsible for accidents than younger people. However, they are less numerous on the road and they drive shorter distances.

We hear that there are not enough doctors to control everyone but it is an excuse from public authorities. There is no real political will.

We often hear that, without a car, there is a risk of isolation so we have to find ways to help them. Car-sharing would be one way.

What is unfortunate is that we are not moving forward in the debate. Nothing is proposed.

My daughter had a serious accident in October 2018. She was mowed down by an old man and lost her left leg. There were other victims. That is the reason behind my petition. Other families have also suffered. And 10 months after the accident, still nothing has been done.

There are often prevention campaigns for alcohol or during heatwaves. There should also be campaigns on this as it can be dangerous for some people to drive.

We are told that families should know when their relatives cannot drive any more and take their keys. But everybody knows that it is complicated to tell a parent to stop driving.

We need a mandatory medical test because we know that we can have sensory and cognitive issues at a certain age. It should not be seen as a punishment but as a formality. It is for the good of everyone.

 

AGAINST

Gilles Renard, founder of the Signal Senior Association, which encourages older people to carry on driving but to put an ‘S’ sign (for senior driver) on their car

What bothers me is that we would make older people pay for a test to stop them driving. Our goal is to help older people drive for as long as possible in a safe way, for them and for others.

When we drive behind someone who is learning to drive, we adapt. We should do the same with the elderly.

We already do medical tests when we visit the doctor and he also prescribes others, such as blood tests or an eye examination. When you wear glasses, you also have to check your sight every year, so the doctor can already tell if your vision is good enough to drive.

I do not understand why we should impose a specific medical visit to the doctor to these people who already go to the doctor. Doctors are able to see if the person is still capable of driving.

It is often not the doctor or the government that is going to act, but the family.

Sometimes, we have families coming to us saying ‘My father is 85, he has Alzheimer’s. I don’t want him to drive because he does not know where he is going and he is dangerous’. Only the family can do something... take the car key, for example.

The government should run a prevention campaign for insurers and families to protect older people, rather than making them pay for a medical test.

They are no more dangerous than others on the road. Serious accidents caused by older people are often caused by people who suffer from Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s. These people are identified –the families and their doctors already know about their illness.

Older people tend to drive slower, they are more cautious. Sometimes they are a bit slow on roundabouts and intersections but they often only drive short distances.

The problem is not that they don’t drive well but when they have an accident it is often more serious because they are more fragile.

Obviously, when you have a young driver coming at 120kph behind an older person who drives at 70-80kph, the first person gets angry and the second one is scared, but if you know that this person is old and drives slowly, you take it into consideration, you overtake when you can, and the problem is solved.

We need to help and protect older people. A refresher course can be practical and putting on an “S” sign (senior) can also reassure people.

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