Doctors rarely report patients whose health makes them dangerous behind the wheel

Physicians filed only 3,000 such reports to Health Ministry last year; gov't experts call for amendment of original 1961 law.

As physicians filed only 3,000 reports to the Health Ministry last year on licensed drivers with medical conditions or taking medications that endanger themselves and others on the roads, government experts have called for the amendment of the original 1961 law and 11-year-old ministry explanations of it. They voiced their position at a first-ever conference on medical ethics and driving, initiated by the Israel Medical Association's Ethics Bureau, held on Sunday evening at Jerusalem's Mishkenot Sha'ananim Adenauer Conference Center and organized by the Jerusalem Ethics Center and Or Yarok, the voluntary organization that fights road accidents. After a particularly tragic case in which a truck driver who had dozens of moving violations killed a father and his daughter on Highway 1 to Jerusalem, road safety authorities looked for those 130 drivers who had a very high number of moving violations and recognized as "ticking bombs" who could cause an accident at any moment. They were able to locate only 80, as the rest lived in unrecognized places in the Negev and elsewhere. Those who were located were called to a hearing, and some were kept off the road (or, at least, lost their licenses) for up to three years. Uzi Yitzhaki, the Transport Ministry‚s deputy director-general in charge of traffic and licensing, said there are 120,000 new drivers a year. If they drive a public vehicle, they are obliged to undergo an eye test by a registered ophthalmologist from the age of 50. He declared that "there have been many phoney doctors, who are not eye doctors as they claimed, or not doctors at all." Ordinary drivers have to pass a vision test every two yearsfrom the age of 65, but a bill is due to be voted on in the new Knesset requiring such a test of every driver from the age of 40. Doctors who spoke said that many physicians are completely unaware of the law that requires them to report to the Health Ministry's National Center for Road Safety on patients with driver's licenses who suffer from any one of dozens of conditions and take drugs that can slow their senses and ability to react on the road. Many of those who do know said they don‚t have the time, given the fact that clinic doctors see a patient every eight minutes or so, or fear violence from patients who learn they will be reported or that their patients will leave them. A full Health Page feature on the conference will appear in The Jerusalem Post on Sunday.