x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 18 January 2018

UAE doctors call for stricter laws to keep epileptic drivers off the roads

Doctors in the UAE say the country needs stricter rules regarding licenses for drivers with epilepsy as they can cause grave accidents on the roads.

Doctors are calling for tougher legislation to govern the issuing of driving licences to epileptics.

Sufferers of the condition are already banned from certain professions – such as aviation, driving public transport and operating heavy machinery – but doctors’ advice to epileptic drivers of private vehicles is not legally binding, as it is in some western countries.

“Someone with epilepsy can have a disastrous accident and endanger the lives of others on the road in a horrible tragedy,” said

Dr Amin Abdullah Al Shawabkeh, a specialist neurologist at Medcare Hospital.

“We need rules and regulations to protect everyone. We also need data on how many of traffic accidents are caused by seizures and other medical conditions.”

Physicians can recommend to a patient that they stop driving “but whether the patient follows this advice or not is a different story”, said Dr Taoufik Al Saadi, head of neurology at Sheikh Khalifa Medical City. “This is a call for officials to work on something and to develop a law to regulate this.”

In many western countries, strict guidelines require motorists to declare medical conditions that affect their ability to drive.

In Britain, licence holders have a legal duty to inform the driver and vehicle licensing agency of any such condition – including epilepsy.

Doctors who diagnose a condition that affects the patient’s ability to drive are also required to inform the patient of their need to declare it to the agency. Generally, in the case of epilepsy, a patient must go at least a year without a seizure if they are to be cleared to drive.

Doctors say similar regulations are urgently needed in the UAE.

Brig Gen Ghaith Al Zaabi, director general of traffic coordination at the Ministry of Interior, said the ministry was considering a scheme under which professional drivers would need yearly medical check-ups to ensure they were fit to drive.

This would be rolled out to a three-year period and there was a possibility it would be extended to include private motorists.

The Roads and Transport Authority in Dubai has also announced plans to start implementing medical fitness tests for professional drivers such as bus drivers, taxi drivers and lorry drivers, this month.

Licences would be renewed annually and the rules are expected to affect about 100,000 drivers. The tests would not affect private motorists.