Wednesday, 25 July 2012

Fit to drive?

The Telegraph reports:
Drivers will have to declare every 10 years whether they are medically able to get behind the wheel, according to proposals to be set out early in the new year.

For the first time, the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) will issue a series of minimum physical and mental requirements motorists must fulfil including eyesight performance and reaction times.

Tests, costing up to £80, will be offered to drivers to check whether they are fit to drive.

Anyone who chooses not to take the tests but declares themselves able to take to the roads will be committing a criminal offence if they fail to meet the established standards.

Pass your test at 17. Waste money and time at 27, 37, 47, and probably 57. Fail to comply, and you risk a criminal record, even if nobody has been harmed.

I'm all for ensuring people are fit to drive, and as long as the roads are public, it is natural for this responsibility to fall to government.

But I can't help but think that the imposition on younger drivers is calculated to avoid charges of "age discrimination". And though it's not mentioned anywhere in the article, I wonder if there's an EU angle to this.

EU-inspired or not, there does seem to be something sinister about it, as Tom Paine explains:

I have absolutely no desire to survive my driving licence. Life without driving a car is unthinkable to me. It's bad enough that the government claims the right to decide who may operate this particular type of machine at all, but imagine the scope this will give the nanny statists given their constant redefinition of the word "health".

Do you drink more than their made-up safe limit per week? Do you smoke? Are you (like most of the England rugby team) in excess of their stupid BMI ratio? Do you believe the British state your greatest foe? You are clearly unhealthy in body, mind or both.

Of course, just because life for Tom is unthinkable without driving, it doesn't follow that he should be allowed to drive, regardless of circumstances. But proactive, preventative measures are always prone to abuse. We should be wary of victimless crimes. And we know that, in the absence of competitive pressures, the nanny statists always err on the side of caution. Just look at Oxford's ridiculous 20 limits.

Aside from the potential for inappropriate redefinition of 'health', there is the prospect of a shortened inspection interval. If checks every 10 years are a good idea, why not every 5? We are already forced to have health checks for our cars every year, so why not have a yearly 'MOT' for the driver? We can't discriminate based on age, of course, so this would apply to all of us. What a wonderfully docile people we'll be when we regularly submit ourselves for approval by government functionaries.

Recall the words of A J P Taylor:
Until August 1914 a sensible, law-abiding Englishman could pass through life and hardly notice the existence of the state, beyond the post office and the policeman.

Do no wrong, and you will be left alone - your personal responsibility and good intentions will be assumed, until there is cause to doubt them. A country of grown-ups, getting on with their lives. How far we've come.


It turns out the Telegraph article was from 2008. I'd like to think that the idea died with New Labour, but I'm sure it's sitting in a drawer somewhere, waiting to be resurrected by our Glorious Coalition (aka Continuity NuLab).

As for the EU connection, a bit of googling turned up this from 2003:
The European Commission has put forward a proposal to amend the existing Directive on driving licences (91/439/EC) which would mean that it would be mandatory for driving licences to be renewed every 10 years. At present the majority of countries either have no time limit (Austria, Belgium and Germany) or a set time limit (eg: up to 70 years of age in the UK).

By 2008, the 10 year renewal requirement was reported without a hint of EU involvement:
The Department for Transport hopes to use the introduction of photocard licences, which will need to be renewed every 10 years, to change the system.

Wikipedia has more about European Driving Licences:
In March 2006, the Council of Ministers adopted a Directive proposed by the European Commission to create a single European driving licence to replace the 110 different models currently in existence throughout the EU.
Some categories like C and D will be issued for five years only. After expiration, a medical check-up is necessary in order to renew the licence for another five years.
The directive stipulates that members states should adopt laws implementing the directive no later than 19 January 2011. Those laws should take effect in all EU members states on 19 January 2013. All licences issued before that date will become invalid by 2033.

It might seem reasonable for lorry and bus drivers to have health checks, but it's a slippery slope, and because the rules are handed down by the EU, there is very little we can do to stop them.

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