Speaking up for drivers of a certain age


I REFER to the article "The old man and his driving licence" by June HL Wong (The Star, Oct 6; online at https://bit.ly/3adlaFx).

The article was in response to Bukit Aman Traffic Investigation and Enforcement Department (JSPT) director Datuk Azisman Alias' proposal on getting senior citizens to go for medical check-ups as a condition for renewing their driving licences.

Azisman was quoted as saying "a high number of traffic accidents on the road was due to the health condition of elderly motorists.”

In her article, Wong stated that Azisman did not provide any statistics on this, but neither did she. But she quoted examples of traffic accidents caused by elderly individuals in the United States, Britain and Japan and hoped that "our police or government won’t wait till a terrible tragedy like the Ikebukuro accident happens before they decide to take action."

She also referenced her previous article, "Pressing problem of older drivers" (Feb 27, 2019; online at bit.ly/star_press) where she stated that elderly drivers have the lowest crash rates of all age groups in Malaysia.

I would like to point out that the situation is still the same in 2021. Our elderly folk are still the most cautious and capable drivers on our roads. Please do not compare elderly Malaysian drivers with those in Western developed countries. Culturally, we are different and we have different ways of life, including the way we behave while driving.

I want to categorically state that Malaysian senior citizens are the steadiest and safest drivers on the road.

I would like to challenge Azisman to share with me the statistics showing that elderly people are the major cause of accidents on Malaysian roads. I am 72 years of age and have been driving since I was 18. I have never met with a road accident in all that time.

I would also like to say that for the past many years, I have yet to hear of friends and colleagues in my age group being involved in a major road accident.

When Malaysians reach a certain age that we feel it is not safe to drive any more, we would just stop driving and be driven by other people instead. Even if we wanted to drive, our family members would NOT allow us to do so. That is the Malaysian culture and sense of civic consciousness. (Wong did state that the moment "I know – or am told by my family members – that I have become a menace behind the steering wheel, I will kiss my driving licence goodbye.")

Of course, getting a medical check-up is good if you want to know your personal health status. But for the average Malaysian, getting a medical check-up is not as simple as one may think. First, you need money, between RM50 and RM100, but do you know that having this amount to spare is difficult for most people?

There is also a lot of mental stress involved when going for a medical check-up. You may have to travel up to 10km to a clinic or

hospital, and you also worry about getting a parking space. And you probably have to wait for the doctor for an hour or two.

I can also imagine an old man telling his wife: "I am going to see the doctor tomorrow. I don’t know if he will give me the clearance to allow me to renew my licence."

Many of us still need to drive to the office or workplace. Some will need to ferry their grandchildren to schools and tuition. Others will have to go and get groceries for the family. In many places, we cannot rely on public transport. In other words, we need to drive to get on with our lives.

The authorities should make the lives of senior citizens easier, not the other way round. Discriminating against older people based on age is ageism. This is against basic human rights.

DATUK DR SOON TING KUEH

Deputy president

National Council of Senior Citizens Organisation Malaysia

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