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Right royal time for age-old debate

Editorial | Mary Ma Jan 24, 2019
Prince Philip's car crash in Norfolk, England, has led to a debate on whether people as elderly as him are still suitable behind the wheel. My guess is there shouldn't be many as old still hitting the roads on a regular basis, although it is rather common for people aged 60 or over to keep driving to maintain an active social life in the United Kingdom. That the Duke of Edinburgh has the habit of driving solo, nevertheless, raises a headache for the British monarchy. His crash was not only a public relations disaster for the royal family, but also revealed how easy he is a target for terrorists or criminals. At 97, it is questionable whether it's wise to allow him to keep his driver's license. There's an issue of a similar nature in Hong Kong. A 73-year-old school driver was arrested last week following a fatal accident outside an elite primary school in Wong Chuk Hang, in which a 63-year-old caregiver was struck and killed while the school bus was reversing on a slope. A few days before that accident, a 67-year-old driver died after his minibus full of passengers crashed on Shing Mun Tunnel Road in Sha Tin. All 16 passengers were injured. According to a government reply to lawmakers, there are more than 174,600 public light bus driving license holders, of whom more than 72,100 are aged 60 or above - including some 14,700 aged 70 or older, and 1,338 aged 80 or above. No further breakdown was offered for those aged 90 or older. As fewer young drivers join the trade, aging has become a trend for the industry. But should drivers be stopped from driving commercial vehicles carrying passengers after reaching a certain age? While it's all too easy to splash out sensational labels like road-killers or city-bombs, it would be absolutely difficult to define a threshold to dictate when people should stop driving, as some are relatively still quite young in their 70s, while some - for various reasons - can be quite old even in their 60s. But it doesn't mean there's absolutely nothing the authorities can do to improve road safety. For drivers reaching 70, they are already required to produce medical proof countersigned by a doctor to confirm they are fit to remain behind the wheel. Instead of the 10-year driving license usually issued, they get only a one- or three-year licence. Should that requirement be lowered to 65, if the transport authority is convinced it is necessary to address the concern? The public light bus industry is calling for greater liberty to import drivers from the mainland or the Philippines to rejuvenate the workforce, which, I fear, would be the last political bomb the administration could wish for. The trade already provided the answer the moment they made the appeal. They said they're running out of young drivers due to the industry's poor wages. So, wouldn't it be simpler to solve the problem by improving their paychecks?

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April 2019