Lifelong license law drives safety fears of elderly motorists
The China Post news staffTAIPEI, Taiwan -- Some lawmakers, social workers and government bodies have raised concerns over elderly people driving in the wake of a regulation change that gives all drivers lifelong licenses.
August 22, 2013, 11:38 am TWN
Legislators Tien Chiu-chin and Chen Chieh-ju said the problems of elderly people driving are becoming more obvious as Taiwan's population ages. They said they are ready to propose changes to the driver licensing law.
Motorists previously had to have their driver licenses replaced regularly, a formality that required drivers to pay a fee every time they received a new license. But starting July 1, no replacement is required, and all licenses are valid for life.
While the new measure saves motorists from all the troubles and expenses incurred from the license replacement, a major issue has been highlighted: no mechanism is in place to monitor whether elderly license holders are still able to drive.
According to government figures, there are about 140,000 drivers aged 65 or more, and the rate of accidents involving elderly drivers has been high. In Taipei, 10 percent of all fatal car accidents over the past five years have involved drivers older than 75.
The Taiwan Alzheimer's Disease Association (TADA) noted that last year, 2,629 people aged 65 and older died in accidents, and over 50 percent of them were traffic accidents.
An 80-year-old driver hit and killed a 77-year-old pedestrian walking across the road on a zebra-crossing in Taipei in June, but the driver claimed he did not see the victim, according to the United Evening News.
The driver said he only heard a loud bang before seeing that his car's windshield was smashed. He only realized he had hit someone after getting out of the car to take a look, the paper reported.
The adult children of another 80-year-old man now have to follow their father every time he drives his motorcycle. They hid his car keys after he had two accidents, but had to let him drive again after his strong protest, the paper said.
The New Taipei City Government and the Directorate-General of Highways jointly held an activity in May to encourage elderly people to give up their driving licenses. Elderly drivers who gave up their licenses were given an EasyCard with a stored value of NT$300. All 500 EasyCards available were given out in a short time.
Tang Li-yu, secretary-general of TADA, said the activity was on the right track in trying to promote the concept of giving up driving among elderly people, but the incentives were insufficient. She urged all local governments to make more efforts to address the issue.
TADA has also started offering classes to traffic police to help them identify drivers who are patients of Alzheimer's disease, Tang said.
But Tang warned that the issue of elderly drivers has to be handled with great care, or it will strip elderly people of their rights.