Pensioners with health problems may have driving licenses suspended

Rush hour traffic on Pirita Road.
Rush hour traffic on Pirita Road. Source: Siim Lõvi /ERR

Older people are causing more traffic accidents each year and doctors say they have no way to suspend drivers licenses after a serious illness is diagnosed. The Ministry of Social Affairs is hoping to reach a solution to the situation within the next year.

Over the last five years, the number of accidents caused by retirees has steadily increased by almost 10 percent each year. While in 2016 there were 2,505 people aged 65 and older who caused traffic accidents, in 2019 the number rose to 3,330. At the same time, the number of traffic accidents caused by the elderly is still significantly lower than their age group share among drivers.

Ülli Reimets, head of the motor third party liability insurance fund, said: "Looking at the statistics of third party liability car insurance now and considering that the Estonian population is constantly aging, it is probably the right time for experts to review both the control methodology and the frequency."

Drivers must, as a general rule, undergo a medical examination every 10 years. People aged 65 must do so every five years unless a doctor decides otherwise. 

Although a driver must have a valid medical certificate in order to drive a motor vehicle, those who do not have the necessary certificate often still drive. This can happen because a medical certificate which has previously been issued cannot be suspended in the event of unforeseen circumstances.

Le Vallikivi, chairwoman of the board of the Estonian Society of General Practitioners, said: "We can't change another doctor's decision, we can't end it prematurely, and if a person has developed a health condition that can make them dangerous to themselves and others overnight, at the moment, we don't really have the opportunity to stop this person from driving."

She said doctors could have the right to suspend a person's right to drive in case of unexpected health problems. According to the Ministry of Social Affairs, the situation will change over the next year.

Agris Koppel, head of the health system development department at the Ministry of Social Affairs, said: "We are working to ensure this information - about the diagnoses - which should exclude a person from driving a car, automatically goes to the Road Administration and then it will be possible to suspend the right to drive."


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Editor: Helen Wright

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