Thursday, 16 December 2021
Ceisteanna (Atógáil) - Questions (Resumed) - Ceisteanna Eile - Other Questions
6. To ask the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport the-up-to-date position on changes to the medical certificate form requirement for 70 to 75-year-olds renewing their driver licences; if all the relevant legislation is in place; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [62312/21]
There was agreement on legislation to increase the age limit for people who were renewing their drivers’ licences and would need medical certificates. The age limit was to be increased from 70 to 75. The Road Safety Authority was reviewing the draft legislation and it was being sent on to parliamentary counsel. There was an expectation this would be delivered earlier this year. Will the Minister of State outline the up-to-date situation on it and how soon it will be in place?
The standards for and issuing of driving licences are covered by EU directives, transposed into national law by member states.
EU Directive 2006/126/EC on driving licences sets out, among other matters, minimum standards of driving fitness for all drivers, covering medical conditions that affect driving and setting out restrictions on the ability to hold a licence. Member states may, if they choose, apply higher standards in their own jurisdictions.
Under Irish law, a person aged 70 or over must provide a medical report from their GP when applying for or renewing a driving licence, regardless of health status. Depending on the report, the applicant may be granted a licence for one or three years. On consideration of the current position, I have accepted a recommendation from the Road Safety Authority, RSA, that the initial age for mandatory medical testing, where an applicant is not otherwise required to supply a medical report, should be increased from 70 to 75. This change will require amendments to the relevant regulations. The regulatory amendments required are being progressed and the estimated date of implementation is currently February 2022. However, this will depend on legal advice and the availability of drafting resources.
In Ireland all driving licence applicants must complete a self-declaration on driver fitness. Drivers aged over 70 and those with a specified condition must produce a medical report with their application. The National Office of Transport Medicine wrote to the RSA in January 2019 recommending that the requirement for routine medical certification of drivers over 70 be lifted. However, the authority noted that public perception of mandatory medical testing for older drivers is reasonably favourable, even if it is not supported by available research.
We hope that the new regulation will be in place by February 2022.
I thank the Minister of State for that update. I am concerned at the February date because when previously raised, there was an expectation that this would be in place by December of this year, assuming that there were no wobbles or hold-ups. I ask the Minister of State to outline the delays that emerged over recent months to cause the date to be pushed out to February. Has it been sent to the Parliamentary Counsel for advice? How quickly would the Minister of State expect the counsel to respond?
Realistically, GPs are up to their eyes administering vaccines at this stage and to be drawing perfectly healthy people into GP surgeries to get medical certificates confirming that they are perfectly healthy does not make any sense. Similarly, at a time when respiratory conditions are more widespread, to be drawing vulnerable people into GP surgeries does not make sense. There needs to be greater speed in bringing this change about, if possible.
I hear the Deputy's concerns about trying to expedite this. The February 2022 date will depend on the legal advice and the availability of drafting resources. I take Deputy Moynihan's point regarding the pressure on GPs at the moment. In order to address the social distancing requirements and the additional burdens on our medical services during the pandemic, the requirement for those over 70 to provide a medical report was temporarily removed in order to protect our citizens and take pressure off our medical services. From March 2020 to June 2021 people aged 70 or over could apply to renew their driver licence without a medical report where they did not have an identified or specified illness. To date, there has been no indication of any negative effects on road safety because of this concession.
I take the Deputy's points on board and if I can get more information on that February 2022 timeline, I will revert to him on it.
I acknowledge the extensions which were a very practical and meaningful measure but many of those extended licences will fall due for renewal soon. I have been contacted by many people who are waiting to renew their licence. Their dates are up now or will be fairly shortly but they are holding off on renewal, pending this change. Where do they stand? Will it be based on their date of birth? If a person's birthday falls now but this new measure does not come in until next February, where do they stand? Will they still need to have a medical certificate or can they wait until February? Is there a danger that they would lose their licence if they wait too long? I ask the Minister of State to clarify the situation in that regard. Will it be based on birthdays from a specified date going forward and where do people whose renewals are now due stand? It really is case of getting this provision available as quickly as possible because it is a very practical and positive measure.
My understanding is that regulatory amendments will be required to progress this. This change will not come into force until those regulations are progressed. That will depend on legal advice and the availability of drafting resources. If people have any questions, they can go to the RSA website for updates. This change will not happen until the amended regulations come into force.