Last week, the Royal Malaysia Police (PDRM) proposed that special conditions be imposed to limit the issuance of driving licences to senior citizens. At the time, Bukit Aman traffic investigation and enforcement department (JSPT) director Datuk Azisman Alias said that poor health is one of the causes of road accidents, with diseases such as Alzheimer’s and deteriorating eyesight being problems typically faced by the elderly.

It was suggested that elderly drivers be required to undergo an examination by a doctor to determine if they are fit (mentally and physically) to drive, before they are allowed to renew their driving licences. Additionally, it was also recommended that the renewal period for this group be shortened.

While there is some truth to PDRM’s statements, the Malaysian Society of Ophthalmology (MSO) has said 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.

In a press statement, the society stated that while good vision is an important aspect to being able to drive safely, and that sight can deteriorate with aging, the health-related causes of motor vehicle accidents involving a particular age group are numerous.

It goes on to say that poor vision can also affect those under the age of 60 and that there are many drivers of all age groups who drive with sub-optimal vision due to correctable visual pathology. “The issue here should not be about age, but rather the fitness to drive of the individual and his vehicle’s roadworthiness,” the statement read.

The society also noted that there are other aspects of vision beyond discerning letters and alphabets which can affect driving, including contrast sensitivity and visual field which should be taken into consideration.

“Heavy goods vehicle and public service vehicle drivers especially require more regular medical checks as MSO members have frequently encountered young patients still operating heavy machinery with levels of vision far below the legal limit. In Malaysia, patient confidentiality dictates that the onus is on the patient to report this to the authorities,” the society commented.

Besides the human health factor, the society also highlighted the importance of optimal vehicle and road conditions. “Examples include the mandatory upkeep of vehicles and regulation of digital billboards that are in drivers’ line of sight, many of which are excessively bright. The need for private transportation can also be drastically reduced with the availability of viable alternatives such as disabled-friendly infrastructure and good public transportation with ‘last-mile’ connectivity,” it explained.

“The MSO would like to strongly encourage the public to voluntarily have their health and eyesight checked regularly. It is generally encouraged that children up to the age of 12 and those aged 40 and above have a routine annual eye check with their optometrist or eye specialist,” the statement ended.

What are your thoughts on the matter? Would you be open to the idea of passing a yearly health screening before you are allowed to renew your driving licence? Share your views in the comments below.