The proposal made last week by the police to impose special conditions and limit the issuance of driving licences to senior citizens has created quite a stir. It was suggested that elderly drivers be required to undergo an examination by a doctor to determine if they are mentally and physically competent to drive before they are allowed to renew their driving licences.
Following this, mention began to circulate about a suggestion to impose these conditions on senior citizens above 70 years old, going as far fetched as having them surrender their driving licences. There were also reports highlighting the possibility of limiting the issuance of road tax (LKM) to older folk.
This talk was nipped in the bud by the transport ministry a few days ago, when transport minister Datuk Seri Wee Ka Siong said that there nothing of such a nature was on the cards.
In a statement, Wee said that any related policy change must be handled with a systematic, evidence-based approach, and needed to be treated with foresight. He said that simply refusing a driver the means to drive on the basis of their age or based on isolated and anecdotal evidence would be discriminatory, because many drivers far over 70 display greater competence in driving compared to their younger peers for any number of reasons.
He reiterated this today. Speaking at the Dewan Rakyat, he said that that his ministry has never said that senior citizens above 70 would have to surrender their driving licences, The Star reports. He explained that the ministry would never make such a requirement as driving competency is not based on an individual’s age.
“If you look at YB Langkawi (Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad), he can drive very well, far better than those who drive recklessly on the roads. So there cannot be discrimination against those who are aged 70 and above. That is why I said it is not the stance of the ministry, and we have no intention of changing it,” he said in reply to a supplementary question on the matter.
In his earlier statement, Wee had said that a holistic approach was needed to determine one’s ability to drive, not just focusing on age alone. He explained that a thorough, inclusive and collective discussion that takes into account all stakeholders’ views were crucial in order to map out an effective improvement plan.
He said such a plan must also consider socio-economic factors such as the need to use a vehicle for income or for medical visits, and added that withdrawing or limiting a valid licence to any individual based on their age should only be considered as a last resort, and done only after transparently verifying a person’s fitness to drive with a recognised test.
Earlier today, the Malaysian Society of Ophthalmology (MSO) also waded in on the topic, stating that implementing a legislation that revokes driving licences with only age as a factor, prior to stakeholder consultation and proper policies being put in place, would be a premature move.
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