Safer roads need tougher rules

To minimise traffic accidents, all drivers must be cleared by medical professionals

Medically unfit drivers should be prevented from driving to make our roads safer. Reem Mohammed / The National
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Road safety depends on a driver's sense of responsibility but also on strict rules ensuring their eligibility to drive and an ability to follow traffic rules. But unfortunately, there are no comprehensive medical standards across the emirates to assess a motorist's fitness to drive. As The National reported yesterday, medical experts in Abu Dhabi say that they are aware of many cases of patients who are medically unfit but continue to drive because there are no rules preventing them from doing so.

It’s good to see an initiative by doctors to introduce a programme to ensure that drivers who are medically unfit do not get behind the wheel. But we still need tougher legislation to support these efforts. A federal set of medical standards for drivers would help minimise the risk of accidents associated with epilepsy and other conditions, including stroke, traumatic brain injury, Alzheimer’s, spinal cord injuries, multiple sclerosis and visual problems.

Last year, a 22-year-old epileptic driver who smashed into the front window of a McDonald's restaurant at an Eppco petrol station in Ajman, killing a woman and a nine-year-old boy and injuring five others, suffered from severe seizures less than a year before the accident. If a firm set of rules had been in place regarding an individual's fitness to drive, this terrible tragedy might have been prevented.

There should be a change in the rules to give doctors the authority to stop medically unfit patients from getting behind the wheel. Currently, a doctor’s recommendation to epileptic drivers of private vehicles is not legally binding. This gives many patients the freedom to drive and, thus, potentially endanger their lives and the lives of other road users.

When it comes to professional drivers, there are rules requiring medical check-ups to ensure their fitness to drive. So why not also have rules for private motorists too?