Retesting elderly drivers smacks of ageism

Vehicles on the Central Expressway on June 3, 2019.
Vehicles on the Central Expressway on June 3, 2019.ST PHOTO: LIM YAOHUI

Mr Cheng Choon Fei stated categorically that "drivers who are 60 and older are at greater risk of getting killed or hurt in road accidents" (Seniors should retake driving test to renew licences, June 18).

He backs this up with statistics, but does not distinguish between accidents caused by pedestrians, vocational drivers and private motorists.

I believe his statement is unfair, and deserves clarification by the relevant authorities and insurance companies, otherwise elderly drivers in Singapore may feel they are unfairly discriminated against.

Elderly Class 3 drivers already undergo mandated regular medical examinations, a tried and tested requirement which has been deemed acceptable by motor insurers.

I am 76 this year, and my insurer has renewed my policy for two years with generous discounts on top of that. The police also renew my driving licence every five years.

I feel slighted by the strong hint of ageism in Mr Cheng's stating that "most people over the age of 65 have diminished vision and hearing acuity, and slower reaction time".

Singapore is acknowledged to be an ageing society, and the Government has taken steps to ensure the Pioneer and Merdeka generations can age gracefully in the best of health.

An ageist attitude could be contagious among the young if they are not accurately informed on the effects of ageing, and should not be encouraged.

Perhaps Mr Cheng could instead have cited the example of Japan trying to make the car safer by redesigning the brake and accelerator pedals, or how other countries are catering for growing numbers of ageing drivers.

To simply say that elderly drivers need to be retested can be construed as wanting to take away their right to drive, since many may be discouraged by the prospect of another rigorous test.

Retests should only be required of drivers, both young and old, who have been involved in accidents and found by the police to be short of the faculties required for safe driving.

Wong Bheet Huan

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 24, 2019, with the headline 'Retesting elderly drivers smacks of ageism'. Print Edition | Subscribe