Drivers take a series of tests and lessons at the RTA Training facility for taxi drivers in Dubai before being granted a licence. Picture for illustrative purposes only. Image Credit: Clint Egbert/Gulf News Archives

Dubai: Older drivers in the UAE might have to face some restrictions such as annual medical tests, if the Ministry of Interior agrees to a proposal by the Roads and Transport Authority (RTA).

According to Ahmad Hashem Behroozian, CEO of RTA’s Licensing Agency, the authority is exploring with the ministry ways to protect older drivers from potential road hazards.

“We are exploring multiple avenues with the federal government and of the things were discussing and, which could possibly be implemented sooner, is having some kind of restrictions on old drivers. One of the ideas is to reduce the duration of licence issued after a certain age, which is currently 10 years for all,” said Behroozian, who is leading the push to have more stringent regulation on drivers across different categories.

The minimum age for older drivers to undergo mandatory medical test will either be 60 or 65, but this has not yet been finalised, Behroozian said.

RTA’s Licensing Agency has already introduced mandatory annual medical tests for those who work as drivers of heavy vehicles, commercial vehicles, trams and taxis. More than 100,000 driver permits have been issued over the last two years.

RTA is now looking to expand the purview of the regulation and is looking to include more categories like chauffeurs or house drivers. At the same time the authority is also looking at other potential non-professional categories to improve road safety.

“This is a very important project for us. Initially we targeted people who normally spend long hours on the road and whose health could impact their performance and could adversely impact safety on road. In the next stage we are looking at drivers of light vehicles as well as older people, who are more likely to have health issues and have slow reaction time,” added Behroozian.

He said that RTA is exploring linking licence renewal for older people to a medical test.

“The medical test that older people are likely to undergo will be different from the one we have for professional drivers. For older people, we will focus more on their reaction time, hazard perception, as well as medical condition,” he said.

However, he cautioned that the discussion is still in the initial stage, and the implementation may take a while.

“We are exploring with the ministry to see if the law could be expanded to have more categories, including older people. Right now the challenge we have is that the UAE law clearly defines that the driver licence renewal should be every 10 years. That is why, if we want to have restrictions on older people, we have to initiate a change in the federal law,” he said.

RTA is also working with the federal government to include the category of delivery boys in the ambit of professional driver permit.

He said that the ministry is also studying having a law to cover all drivers to have a medical test during licence renewal as well as to acquire a new licence.

“I see the regulation will cover all the drivers in the future. I cannot say how long this will take, but this is likely to happen in the near future. This is already in place in many developed countries and sooner or later this will happen in the UAE,” he said.

He added that in many developed countries like Australia and the UK, doctors are obliged by law to identify patients who could be a threat on road and alert the authorities concerned

“If the doctors fail to alert the authorities on any potential threat, then they risk their licence being revoked. This is a good system to identify health risks early,” he said, hinting at the likelihood of it being explored in the UAE.

“This will, of course, take longer to implement, and will require special legislations. But these are some of the best practices we are looking to have in place in the future,” he added.

So far, RTA has stopped more than 1,200 people from working as professional drivers and their licences were cancelled on health grounds.

Modelled on a similar health risk programme implemented by the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) in the UK, the medical test rolled out in 2013 aims to cut down on risks posed to road users by drivers suffering from certain diseases.

The tests can be carried out at eight approved centres — Dubai Health Authority, Canadian Hospital, Iranian Hospital, Prime Medical Centre, Dubai Municipality Clinic, Zulekha Hospital, Al Khaleej Hospital and Al Musalla Hospital.

The permit is valid for one year only and has to be renewed every year against a fee of Dh100.

Medical conditions in focus

  • Neurological disorders
  • Psychiatric disorders
  • Diabetes Mellitus
  • Cardiovascular ailments
  • Alcohol and drug abuse and dependence
  • Visual disorders
  • Renal disorders
  • Respiratory and sleep disorders
  • Profound deafness
  • Brain tumours
  • Cancer