Jan 22, 2018
I refer to news reports over the past few days on a senior citizen who was caught on a viral video driving against traffic on the New Pantai Expressway, It is reported that he was suicidal at the time of the incident and that he suffers from dementia and hearing difficulties.
I will not delve into how he managed to acquire the car keys or why he was left unsupervised as his family knows about his medical condition. My concern here is his own safety and that of other road users affected by his actions.
Now would be a good time to revisit my proposal that drivers above the age of 65 be required to undergo a simple medical test to determine their driving fitness and proficiency every six months. This proposal was published by several newspapers and online portals in September 2017.
Right off the bat, let me acknowledge that I do not have any legal or medical training and that this proposal is based on ensuring public safety. As far as I am aware, there is no law in Malaysia prohibiting anyone from driving when he or she reaches a certain age. Therefore, a person can indeed continue to drive for as long as he or she feels competent enough to do so.
Some Malaysian motor insurance companies do impose a driver’s age limit of 65 years, with an excess rider ranging from RM1,000 to RM3,000 for accident damage. Similarly, some car rental companies also have a cut-off age of 65 for potential hirers.
Of course, common sense dictates that certain criteria have to be met. The first is eyesight. A normal person should be able to see a minimum distance of 23m. A driver, regardless of age, must also be able to see the traffic lights well.
One concern pertaining to eyesight is astigmatism, which causes vision for both near and far objects to appear blurry or distorted. This usually occurs during night driving. Therefore, drivers suffering from astigmatism are always advised against driving at night. Driving during the day, however, would still be all right.
The second criterion which qualifies a person to drive is hearing. To drive safely, a person should be able to hear vehicles approaching from the rear, police and ambulance sirens, cars honking and so forth.
The third is good reflexes. Again, regardless of age, good reflexes especially of the arms and legs are extremely important. Is the footwork still capable of applying brakes fast in emergency situations? Are the hands arthritis-free and capable of quick reflexes and changing gears?
In short, a driver no matter what his/her age must have the capacity to be alert when he or she is driving. For an elderly person, driving in today’s stressful conditions can be rather straining and tiring.
Finally, a person who wishes to drive should be able to remember roads and places well. He/she should also not pose any problem to other road users. If people can take all of these in their stride, then there is no reason for him/her to quit driving.
However, I strongly recommend (again) that drivers above the age of 65 be required to undergo a simple medical test to determine their driving fitness and proficiency every six months. This will ensure peace of mind for themselves, their loved ones won’t have to constantly worry about them, and other road users would feel safe too.
Founder of Malaysians Against Rape, Assault & snatcH theft (MARAH)