SPAIN’S Interior Minister has rejected the idea of ‘M’ plates for elderly drivers, saying it is driving capacity which matters rather than age.
“It’s not on our agenda”, Fernando Grande-Marlaska made clear on the proposal.
The Salamanca Public Prosecutor’s proposal, which featured in the State Public Prosecutor’s Report, suggested that drivers aged over 70 have an ‘M’ for “Mayor”, or elderly in Spanish, on their vehicles to let others on the road know that the person behind the wheel is of advanced years.
The suggestion was also that the measure be accompanied by more frequent medical checks for driving licence holders for older drivers, with psycho-physical checks every two years for 70 to 75-year olds and every year for over-75s.
The arguments in favour of the initiative are that it would make other drivers less likely to harass elderly motorists and could help to improve road safety.
Commenting on the issue on Wednesday during a presentation at the DGT Directorate General of Traffic to unveil new signs for warning motorists about the 100 worst traffic accident blackspots on the nation’s roads, the Interior Minister said his department’s priority is “guaranteeing safety.
What his department is in agreement with he said is what is being done, which is that “the person who has a valid licence to drive a vehicle has the necessary and essential psych-physical capacities to not be a risk driving, independently of that person’s age.”
Various associations for drivers, road accident victims and for the elderly criticised the Public Prosecutor’s idea as unnecessary, discriminatory and as potentially stigmatising seniors.
The RACE Royal Spanish Automobile Club head of road safety Jorge Castellanos told Spanish media that in fact drivers aged 70 plus are “more respectful of safety regulations, and in the main, are more observant of the laws.”
He said that accident rates are not especially high among elderly drivers, who are more likely to take the same routes, not to drive very long distances, to avoid driving at night and to assess their own ability to be behind the wheel.
Castellanos said his association disagreed with measures of this kind, pointing out that “every person ages very differently”, and that each driver’s’ capacity is assessed in a psychotechnical test.”
They were views echoed by the Stop Accidentes platform Fernando Muñoz, who told press he is not in favour of “categorising people by age alone.”
Both organisations expressed the view that what is important is ensuring medical tests and psycho-technical tests for renewing licences are carried out thoroughly to prevent giving authorisation to drive to people who really shouldn’t be in control of a vehicle.
There are some 2.7 million drivers in Spain aged over 70, according to the most recent Nationa Institute of Statistics figures.
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