Physical and mental health can quickly change

The October 2021 rollout of driver’s licenses with 10-year validity is fast approaching. While many are excited about it, it's not without its caveats.

One of the concerns raised by President Rodrigo Duterte during his recent State Of the Nation Address (SONA), was how the government can ensure drivers given this privilege are fit both mentally and physically for the next decade.

To recap, the 10-year valid driver’s license is only for those renewing their 5-year driver’s license. It is not automatic to every driver. Only those WITHOUT traffic violations or demerits on their driver’s licenses will be qualified.

To address the mental and physical health aspect, the Land Transportation Office (LTO) held a public consultation with doctors to find out their recommendations. After all, a lot can happen in 10 years to both the physical and mental state of a driver.

Evaluation every 2 years?

One of the measures suggested was an evaluation every 2 years. Pangkalahatang Sanggunian Manila and Suburbs Drivers Association or PaSangMaSDA (public transport group) president, Ka Obet Martin, suggested that a 2-year driver evaluation should be included in the guidelines.

Ka Obet said that as people’s health and physical fitness may decline over the years, he suggests that a physical and mental examination should be required every 2-years for both professional and non-professional drivers. This should determine if they are still fit to drive a vehicle safely.

He also suggested that a 1-2 hour “refresher” seminar may be required to make sure that all of these drivers are up to date with existing traffic laws.

Doctors agree

The doctors who were present during the consultation agreed that 10 years might be too long, and that driver re-evaluation may be necessary.

“Just like COVID testing, you could be negative now but tomorrow is another day. So I feel 10 years is too long,” said Dr. Ma. Antonia De Los Angeles, one of the specialists being consulted during the meeting.

“A 10-year passport validity is justifiable because even people with disabilities are allowed to travel. But a driver is like a pilot who is responsible for his passengers, hence, a regular medical [checkup] is important within the 10 year period if LTO is bent on implementing it.”

Elder drivers most at risk

Elderly drivers (in their 50s and older) are the ones more likely to experience drastic changes in mental and physical health. Events like deterioration of eyesight due to illness or simply because of age are some of the common physical changes doctors are concerned about.

To reduce this risk and inconvenience, Dr. Anabel Banzon said the LTO should consider putting an age bracket, instead of requiring everyone who’s eligible for the 10-year DL to undergo medical evaluation every 2 or 3 years.

“18-49 years old [for] 10-years [driver’s license] suggestion for age bracket, 50 to 59 [for] 5-years [driver’s license], 60 and above 3 years [driver’s license],” said Dr. Anabel Banzon.

This suggestion was approved by Dr. Lester Abeleda, who added that if the driver has impaired vision based on the medical evaluation (upon renewal of DL), a physical re-examination in 3 years may be required.

Psychiatric evaluation pushed

Road rage is becoming increasingly common these days, and it’s become more evident thanks to dashcams and helmet cams capturing these outbursts.

The LTO, through their licensing office, have hinted that a psychiatric evaluation requirement for these drivers may be a good idea, especially considering these drivers will not be required to visit the LTO for the next 10 years.

10 years is too long nga po. How can we add po kaya behavior sa assessment? Road rage kasi is common na sa ngayon,” said Mercynita Paras, chief of the QC Licensing Center of the LTO.

Doctors agree with that requirement as well, however, a psychological evaluation from a specialist nets a PhP 2,500 price tag.

So as not to burden motorists, two things were suggested: 1) refer drivers to this special assessment only if they were involved in a road rage incident, or 2) add simple mental written exams to assess the mental health of the applicant.

For now, this is only a consultation. The points brought up will be discussed. Not all may end up as part of the implementing rules and regulations.