Simply refusing an elderly the means to drive or ride on the basis of their age or based on isolated or anecdotal evidence is discriminatory said Minister of Transport, Dr. Wee Ka Siong.
The proposal was made to the government following factors contributing to road accidents. According to the Director of the Bukit Aman Traffic Investigation and Enforcement Department, Datuk Azisman Alias, the health of the body is also a factor in accidents, as reported by Harian Metro.
Azisman added diseases such as Alzheimer's and vision problems would be faced by the elderly in old age.
This proposal has been met with uproar from the public and our transport minister, Dr. Wee Ka Siong.
While the public is of the opinion that driving under the influence kills more people than Alzheimer's, furthermore geriatrics know their limits when it comes to driving. Many senior citizens do not even drive at night.
According to a report compiled by FMT, Wee said, "Many drivers far above the age of 70 display greater competence in driving compared to those who are younger," he said in a statement.
"Simply refusing an elderly the means to drive or ride on the basis of their age or based on isolated or anecdotal evidence is discriminatory."
He continued by saying that many older people depend on their driving to earn a living or for visits to clinics and that many in rural areas relied on motorcycles as their only mode of transport, he added.
Wee also said that any related policy change to the driving license or road tax must be handled systematically and must be based on evidence, which begs the question:
Based on the accident statistics in Malaysia in the last ten years, what is the percentage of accidents caused by senior citizens vs others, and of that ratio, what percentage of accidents are caused by diseases that are often associated with senior citizens compared to other factors?
Also worth noting, as clarified by the former Minister of Transport, Anthony Loke, the jurisdiction for issues regarding new policies and conditions for driver’s licenses is actually not under the jurisdiction of PDRM. PDRM, especially the traffic police, is only responsible for enforcing the law under the Road Transport Act 1987.
The former Minister of Transport continued by saying that driving licenses issued by the Road Transport Department (JPJ) are in accordance with the provisions of the Road Transport Act 1987.
JPJ is a government department under the control of the Ministry of Transport Malaysia. Any changes to the policy and conditions for a driver’s license must be decided in advance by the Ministry of Transport and not other agencies in the government.
Under the Ministry of Transport, there is a special agency to study all policies and technical issues on road safety issues, namely MIROS (Malaysian Institute of Road Safety Research). The issue of additional requirements for senior drivers was once discussed when he headed the Ministry of Transport. However, at the time he thought the proposal needed detailed study as it might have been misunderstood as a form of discrimination against elderly drivers.
Till these detailed studies are carried out, it's pretty unfair to limit the issuance of driving licenses to senior citizens, but if we look at our neighbouring countries, there are some prerequisites needed for the elderly to obtain or renew their driving licenses.
For example, Singapore requires drivers over 65 years old to undergo a medical examination with a registered medical practitioner to obtain or renew their license, and those aged 75 and above are prohibited from operating heavy vehicles such as trucks and buses. Those who pass the medical test and have received their license will have to retake the medical test every three years thereafter.
In Indonesia, all drivers regardless of age need to carry out a vision test to renew their license. In Japan, a country known as having the world's oldest population requires drivers aged 71 and above to renew their license every three years, as opposed to its usual five-year period and those aged 75 or older need cognitive tests when trying to renew their license.
These regulations seem to be put in place to logically ensure that the elderly are fit to drive.
While it may be wise for Malaysia to consider putting them in place, it must be a decision backed by statistics and science, not isolated or anecdotal evidence.