Transport Ministry raises age for driver’s license physicals

Longer life expectancy allows for leniency.

Old man walking with a cane 311 (photo credit: AP)
Old man walking with a cane 311
(photo credit: AP)
The Transportation Ministry announced Tuesday that it was raising the age limit for mandatory physicals for elderly motorists.
Starting January 1, 2011, general physical examinations will only be mandatory for drivers over the age of 70, instead of 65 as it is now. Drivers in their 70s will receive a license for five years before requiring another examination, and those over 80 will be required to undergo a physical every two years to renew their licenses. Professional drivers will require examinations from the age of 60 instead of 50.
The reason for the increase, according to the Transportation Ministry, is that Israelis are living longer. With life expectancy up from 71.2 in 1976 to 79.1 in 2008 for men and from 74.8 to 83 for women, the ministry felt Israel could safely join other countries, like Holland and Switzerland, in raising the age to 70.
“Ministry figures show that only a tiny percentage of drivers aged 65 and up who were examined by the Road Safety Medical Institute had their licenses revoked or were instructed to drive under limitations,” read the ministry’s statement.
“The population of elderly drivers (67 and above) has more than doubled in the last decade,” the statement continued. “In 2000 there were 130,000, and in 2009, 330,000. In 2000 they made up 4.9 percent of all drivers, in 2009, 9.8%.”
According to Transportation Minister Yisrael Katz, “the new regulation will substantially ease the lives of the senior and professional drivers and will save them trouble, time and unnecessary expenditures on medical examinations required for driver’s license renewal.”
However, earlier this week, road safety advocacy group Or Yarok released a report on elderly drivers, suggesting the state do precisely the opposite – lower the age for mandatory physicals.
The organization expressed dismay over the fact that between the ages of 17 and 65, there is no requirement that drivers undergo medical tests before renewing their licenses every 10 years. The group is supporting a Knesset bill that would require physicals every 10 years starting from age 40.
According to the Or Yarok report, the number of senior citizens who died as a result of traffic accidents during 2000-2009 represented twice their proportion of the population.
The study showed that out of the 3,888 senior citizens injured in traffic accidents in the 41 cities examined, 30% were involved as drivers, 45% were pedestrians and 20% were passengers.
“Aging is a process that is accompanied by the deterioration of various physical and mental abilities, among them the narrowing of the field of vision, slowing of eye movement speed and slowing of decision-making processes. These changes make senior citizens more sensitive to complex traffic situations where they have to take multiple actions in a given time,” said Or Yarok CEO Shmuel Aboav.
“The most common accident among elderly drivers is collisions at intersections as a result of turning in front of vehicles that have right of way,” he added.
Aboav stressed the importance of adjusting vehicles and roadinfrastructure to accommodate the increasing number of elderly drivers.
“Vehicle safety features are mostly suited for healthy adult drivers.While safety measures have been designed for children, the safety needsof the elderly have gone neglected,” said Aboav.
“Infrastructure suitable for elderly drivers needs to be simple andspacious, in order to enable additional maneuvering space,” heexplained. “Special attention should be paid to intersection design –for example, by replacing stop signs with traffic lights and addingmore traffic circles.”
Aboav suggested that local authorities add extra safety measures, likelonger green lights at pedestrian crossings and larger street signs, inplaces with large numbers of senior citizens.