x Abu Dhabi, UAE Friday 21 July 2017

Dubai authorities may require medical tests for some motorists

Elderly motorists, drivers with health problems and bus and taxi drivers in Dubai could be required to pass a medical test before they get their licences.

DUBAI // Elderly motorists, drivers with health problems and bus and taxi drivers in Dubai could be required to pass a medical test before they get their licences, under proposals being discussed by transport and health officials. Talks are under way to establish mandatory health tests for certain categories of motorists, including professional drivers, lorry drivers and those with medical conditions that could pose a risk on roads.

"The idea is to link the renewal of a driver licence with the production of a medical certificate to prove their fitness to drive," said Ahmed Bahrouzian, chief executive of the Roads and Transport Authority's (RTA) licensing agency. He said the talks between the RTA and the Dubai Health Authority were at a very early stage, but could lead to a change in the law that would make Dubai's roads safer.

The two sides are weighing which categories of motorists, and which specific health conditions, pose the greatest risks to safety. Mr Bahrouzian said when drivers in certain categories renew their licences, they could be required to produce a medical certificate that says, for example, "although they are 60 or 70 years old, medically, they are still able to drive". Drivers who suffer from blackouts, heart conditions or epileptic fits could be among those who need to undergo regular check-ups, Mr Bahrouzian said.

The health checks could also apply to all drivers of public-transport vehicles, he said. Currently, motorists who renew their licences are under no legal requirement to declare a health condition that may put them and others in danger. This puts Dubai at odds with practices in many cities in Europe and the US. "There are some countries in the world where medical practitioners are required by law to declare cases of their patients where they are fit or not fit for driving and that does not exist in Dubai," Mr Bahrouzian said.

Simon Labbett, regional director for the Transport Research Laboratory, a UK-based consultancy, said most European countries ask motorists for medical certificates before approving their licence applications. "It does have an impact on road fatalities," he said. No one from Dubai Health Authority was available for comment yesterday. Dr Jens Thomsen, the head of occupational and environmental health at the Health Authority-Abu Dhabi, said there were a number of diseases and illnesses that could come under review when applying for a licence.

@Email:eharnan@thenational.ae