A driving need
A local bus in Changwon, South Gyeongsang, crashed into a truck, killing the truck driver. The bus driver was relatively young, in his 30s. He had fainted from hypoglycemic shock and lost control. There have been a series of accidents due to health-related problems of drivers of public transportation like buses and taxies. Last September, a tour bus driver drove into a tree following a cardiac arrest in Goyang, Gyeonggi. In Busan, an airport limousine bus driver had a stroke while driving and one of the passengers had to take the wheel to stop the vehicle last April.
Under the Public Transport Business Act, anyone can be hired as a driver if he or she does not have a criminal or drug-usage record. An annual health checkup given after a year of employment covers just simple blood tests and a blood pressure test. There is no age limit for bus and taxi drivers. Some 28 percent of taxi drivers in Seoul are 65 and older. The corresponding share among village bus drivers is 16 percent. Car accidents caused by elderly drivers are on the rise. The cab driver who drove into a revolving door at the Silla Hotel in downtown Seoul was 82 years old. Although overregulation should always be avoided, there must be certain qualification restrictions for public transportation drivers.
First of all, health examinations must be strengthened. Health records should be scrutinized before drivers are hired. The driving aptitude test that drivers are required to take to earn new driving licenses or renew them should become mandatory for elderly drivers. Because public safety is an issue for all members of the public, health and driving aptitude examinations should be administered and supervised by the government.
The government and legislature must seriously mull setting a cap on the ages of those in charge of vehicles on the road and vessels on the seas. Pilots have a retirement age of 65 under International Civil Aviation Organization rules. Drivers’ qualifications should not be ignored on the grounds of equality and fairness. Their qualifications can directly affect the lives of members of the public. There must be new guidelines on drivers’ aptitude for the safety of people in the vehicles and outside.