effectiveness of medical visits, risk of accidents among seniors, control methods… what is the situation?

While MEPs must vote on Wednesday on a bill which envisages establishing a compulsory medical examination every 15 years to renew a driving license, reactions are multiplying on social networks and in the media. Franceinfo disentangles the true from the false.



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According to the latest consolidated road safety figures, in 2022, young people and seniors are equally poor performers on the road.  (MAGALI COHEN / HANS LUCAS)

Will you soon have to undergo a medical examination to renew your driving license? MEPs will vote on this proposed directive revision on Wednesday February 28, as part of a reform of European rules on driving. The subject provokes a lot of reaction on social networks or on TV sets. Let’s sort out the truth from the fiction.

“This bill is like repeating your license every fifteen years”, true or false?

It’s wrong. Some Internet users on social networks are worried about having to “retake their license”. Pierre Chasseray, spokesperson for 40 million motorists, compared the situation with the baccalaureate. “Are you asked to retake your baccalaureate every fifteen years?”. If the text is voted on, it will not be necessary to repeat the highway code or redo a slot in front of the examiner. The idea is to have a mandatory medical check-up every 15 years to check, above all, eyesight, hearing and reflexes. If the medical test is not validated, the license is not renewed. The text proposes to make this medical check compulsory upon obtaining the license, and not from a minimum age.

Furthermore, discussions are still ongoing. If the text is voted on in the European Parliament, it will then be negotiated with the member states. However, the Commission, like the 27, wants to leave the choice to the different countries to impose the measure or not. If a government does not want them, as is the case in France, these medical visits could be replaced by a “self-assessment”.

No study proves the effectiveness of these medical visits, true or false?

The Road Prevention association or 40 million motorists affirm that the effectiveness of these medical visits has never been proven. In reality, there aren’t many publications on the subject. In 2001, the OECD wrote in a report that “nothing could confirm” the effectiveness of medical visits for the elderly. The European Transport Safety Council also published a report in 2021 entitled “Is medical fitness to drive fit for purpose?”. The authors looked at the effect of the measure in countries that have introduced it. They conclude that it “Mandatory testing of older drivers has not been shown to be effective in preventing serious collisions”. According to them, it can even have a negative effect because older people would shift to walking, where they are more often victims of fatal accidents.

But the authors of the study also write that medical checks “may be useful in identifying medical conditions that may affect the ability to drive”, that is, specific diseases, such as epilepsy, diabetes, drug addiction or mental disorders. According to them, we should not focus on age, but on risk pathologies.

The authors themselves deplore the lack of data at European level on the subject. Note also that the medical checks analyzed in the study vary greatly: in certain countries, it is only a medical test completed by the motorist himself.

“Seniors are the most dangerous on the road” or “the least accident-prone population”, what is it really?

Some Internet users claim, with supporting examples or testimonials, that older people are “the most dangerous” on the roads. On the contrary, the spokesperson for 40 million motorists, Pierre Chasseray, affirms that “this is the population with the least accident risk”. According to the latest consolidated road safety figures, in 2022, young people and seniors are equally poor performers. 80% of people aged 75 and over, when involved in a fatal accident, are responsible for the collision. Young people and the elderly are also the most killed on the roads. But not for the same reasons. Among older people, discomfort tops the list of causes of accidents, ahead of failure to respect priorities and inattention. Among young people, it is speed that is mainly to blame.

The figure of 17% of fatal accidents caused by seniors is also often put forward, to justify that this is the “least accident-prone” population. But this is a figure from the 2017 road safety report, seven years ago.

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