Tragic crash raises issue of drivers' health checks

Health checks should be stricter for drivers and should be carried out often enough, say experts approached by Latvian Radio December 11. The issue of the frequency and quality of medical tests was widely debated in the public room following a tragic crash on Saturday in Rīga, where a 91-year-old man accidentally hit two young people, one of whom lost her life.

Police concluded that the crash was likely caused by carelessness on the part of the driver - he had not noticed the pedestrians. After the news was published that the driver was 91, social media users began intense discussions about whether medical checks are frequent enough for drivers in Latvia and whether they are of high quality.

Drivers in categories A and B should undergo a health check every decade. But those over the age of 60 – every three years.

Jānis Vanks, director of the Safe Driving School, said: "Clearly in most cases, the person who gets cleared is also in good medical condition. But I think we could be tougher in that regard."

There are concerns about whether the doctors who provide these certificates really test a patient's ability to drive. How health examinations are to be performed shall be determined by Cabinet of Ministers regulations. The examinations shall be carried out by a general practitioner or a special medical committee. Health problems limiting the ability to drive vary, including dementia and epilepsy, diabetes, and sleep apnea.

“If there is a suspicion of deteriorating state of health, the next examination may also be determined for the performer of the health examination after a shorter period of time, which is even one year,” explained Juris Teteris, head of the quality department of the Road Traffic Safety Directorate.

Health risks that may endanger the ability to drive can be strongly exacerbated in older people, such as a reduction in reaction rates. However, tragic crashes are caused by drivers of different ages, so special attention should be paid to drivers at all ages, stated Gundega Skruze - Janava, a general practitioner.

"It's not just the age, the overall health condition and slightly stricter requirements for medical examinations would be helpful for any age group. Both the cognitive ability test and the response rate test," said the doctor. The response rate for drivers in Latvia is not checked at all. 

Aija Barča, President of the Federation of Retirees, stressed that seniors should think about this in particular.

“I would also appeal to seniors to think about whether it is necessary to get behind the wheel yourself, especially in such weather conditions where you have to be as careful as possible and the reaction is no longer like it was at a young age,” Barča said.

Seen a mistake?

Select text and press Ctrl+Enter to send a suggested correction to the editor

Select text and press Report a mistake to send a suggested correction to the editor

Related articles


Most important