Should there be an age limit to stop driving? A question to which road safety experts and representatives of traffic victims consulted by Efe are trying to answer after the recent multiple collision involving an octogenarian driver that left 18 injured, four of them seriously.
The events occurred on the night of Sunday May 7 in Vilanova de Arousa (Pontevedra) when the 82-year-old woman broke into a festival with her vehicle and ran over the victims, which the president of the Xunta, Alfonso Rueda, attributed to a "distraction" of the driver who confused the reverse gear with the forward gear.
The experts consulted by Efe agree that driving is a right that cannot be denied to anyone, although they consider that it is necessary to be more rigorous in the periodic reviews for the renewal of the license and increase its frequency from a certain age.
The elderly driver "is not more dangerous" than the young one, he does not have more accidents, but when they do happen "they tend to be more spectacular" and are mainly due to forgetfulness, errors or temporary mental disorders, the general secretary of the Association has told Efe Spanish Association of Psychotechnical Medical Centers (Asecemp), Bonifacio Martín.
Currently, the medical examination and the criteria to be evaluated are the same for any age, although if a disease or deficiency is detected, they can be considered fit to drive but with limitations, which are reflected on the license.
It is estimated that each year some 350,000 restrictive conditions are established, such as shortening the renewal, having a limited driving radius, being able to drive only during the day, not carrying passengers or speed limits. And age is a determining factor for this.
In Spain there is no age limit for driving. Currently, the card is valid for 10 years for those under 65 and 5 for those over that age. The review of these deadlines is included in the Road Safety Strategy 2021-2030.
However, Spain is waiting for the new European driving license directive to be approved, which could be at the end of this year, to modify the driver regulations and introduce the changes, among them, the one that affects the deadlines, sources from the General Directorate of Traffic (DGT) have pointed out to Efe.
The spokesman for the examination centers emphasizes that the good psychophysical conditions that are detected during a medical examination are specific and, in the elderly, "can vary in a very short time."
For this reason, he advocates a return to the regulations prior to 2009, in such a way that from the age of 70 the maximum validity of the card is two years, a proposal in which practically all the experts consulted agree.
The Director of Prevention and Road Safety at Fundación Mapfre, Jesús Monclús, also proposes reviewing and improving the current psychotechnical examinations to, for example, adapt them more to mild cognitive impairment typical of older ages, something in which he is already working the DGT, he assures.
"Better recognition, giving a greater role to primary care doctors and empowering families are the keys to not unnecessarily restricting driving just because they are of a certain age and, at the same time, not putting road users at risk "he points.
"Greater rigor" in renewals and shortening the terms to two years from the 70s also defends the president of the DIA accident victims association, Paco Canes, who also leaves the responsibility of dissuading family members in the hands of to drive when a person is not in condition, but supporting them. "We can't tell someone not to drive and not give them a choice," he warns.
The president of the Association for the Study of Spinal Cord Injury (Aesleme), Mar Cogollos, believes that it would also be important for psychotechnical medical centers to have a "health sheet" for drivers, that is, a report from the driver's header so as not to rely only on punctual recognition.
From the National Confederation of Driving Schools (CNAE) they propose to establish some type of knowledge and skills update course, which could "coincides perfectly" with the renewal of the driving license.
"Now circulation is much more complex and the infrastructure has also changed," says its president Enrique Francisco Lorca, who gives the example of the roundabouts, which appeared a short time ago "and very few people know how to deal with them."
A total of 181,171 drivers of the total 27.6 million in Spain are over 80 years old, which represents 0.6% of the total, while 3.7% (1,039,323) are over 74 years old. .
In addition, 28% of those killed in traffic accidents are over 65 years of age, a group that represents 15% of the driver census and 19% of the population, according to DGT data. In the European Union that percentage rises to 30%.