Should Malaysia consider special driving licence rules for seniors? Here’s a look at some countries’ requirements

In Malaysia, there are generally no medical tests needed or age-related restrictions for driving licences to be renewed. — Picture by Hari Anggara
In Malaysia, there are generally no medical tests needed or age-related restrictions for driving licences to be renewed. — Picture by Hari Anggara

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KUALA LUMPUR, Sept 26 — On Friday, Bukit Aman Traffic Investigation and Enforcement Department director Datuk Azisman Alias called for Malaysian regulations to be changed so that senior citizens have to undergo some form of screening before getting their driving licence renewed.

A number of groups have since objected to this idea, including the Sarawak Gerontology and Geriatrics Society (SGGS), which countered by saying that there are no statistics showing that the elderly are among the highest contributors to road accidents in the country.

SGGS president Dennis Tan suggested instead that more road accidents are caused by young people driving recklessly, and the police should instead go after the mentally ill, substance abusers and repeat traffic offenders instead of the elderly.

In Malaysia, there are generally no medical tests needed or age-related restrictions for driving licences to be renewed, and the licence validity period can be chosen from between one and five years.

While the necessity of having the elderly to undergo tests before being declared fit-to-drive can be disputed, here is a look at driving licence-related regulations as practised around the world.

It is important to note that some of the restrictions in these countries have been temporarily relaxed due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Asia 

Japan, the country hailed by US-based Population Research Bureau in 2019 as having the world’s oldest population, requires drivers aged 71 and above to renew their licence every three years, as opposed to its usual five-year period.

Furthermore, those aged 75 or older in Japan have to take a cognitive test when trying to renew their licence. Those who, during the test, are suspected of having dementia will then have to undergo a medical checkup.

Closer to home, in Singapore, drivers have to undergo a medical examination by a Singapore-registered medical practitioner once they hit 65 years of age, and have to do so again every three years thereafter to get their licence renewed.

Those aged 75 and above in the island nation are prohibited from driving vehicles such as trucks, buses and heavy vehicles like mobile cranes.

In Indonesia, all drivers regardless of age need to take a vision test when renewing their licence, which has a validity of five years.

In South Korea, all drivers are obliged to take an aptitude test before renewing their licence. However, drivers older than 75 have to renew their licence every three years, while younger drivers get either seven or 10 years, depending on when they obtained their licence.

Europe

In the UK, elderly drivers do not have to take tests to renew their driver’s licence, but they do need to reapply for their licence at the age of 70 and every three years thereafter — instead of the 10-year period given to younger drivers.

Additionally, those above the age of 70 must declare in their application that they are fit and healthy to drive and that their eyesight meets the minimum requirements for driving, via self-assessment.

A medical examination is only required if those over 70 want to drive a medium-sized goods vehicle or minibus.

However, other countries in Europe practise stricter laws. In the Netherlands, a medical examination is required every five years for drivers aged 70 and above. 

In Italy, medical tests are required for licence renewal regardless of age, but the frequency increases from 10 years for those under 50, to three years for those aged 70 and older.  

America

In the US, requirements vary across its states. California requires drivers aged 70 and older to renew their licence in person and to take both a vision test and written test when doing so. The renewal period is every five years — the same across all age groups.

In Iowa, all in-person renewals require a vision test. Drivers can choose to renew their licence in-person or online. However, if a person’s current licence was renewed online, then their next renewal must be done in-person.

Last year, Iowa removed a requirement requiring drivers who are 70 and older to renew their licence every two years compared with every eight years for most drivers.

Other states like New York, Ohio and Connecticut don’t practise any special provisions for older drivers; while states like Florida allow the public to report a potentially unsafe driver.

Oceania

The different states and territories in Australia also practise varying regulations. In New South Wales, Queensland, Western Australia and the Australian Capital Territory, senior drivers are required to undergo medical tests before licence renewals, although the age that this regulation comes into effect varies from 75 to 80. 

Others like South Australia only require those aged 75 and above to fill-up a self-assessment medical fitness form every year, while in the Northern Territory and Tasmania, senior drivers are required to voluntarily disclose any conditions that may affect their driving ability. 

In New Zealand, a driver’s licence is valid for 10 years up to the age of 75, after which, it is valid for five years until a person reaches the age of 80. From this point on, they will be required to renew their licence every two years.

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