Legal issues. Is the lifetime license almost over?

Should the law be changed? What to do if someone close to you is no longer fit to drive? We put these questions to Pauline Déroulède and Maître Jean-Baptiste Le Dall, a motor vehicle lawyer.

For Pauline Deroulède, everything changes on this day in October 2018 when a motorist mows her down in the middle of the street, after confusing the accelerator pedal and the brake pedal. A question then arises: the driver, a nonagenarian, had the right to drive, but did he have the abilities to do so? “When I learned the circumstances of the accident, I wondered why one could drive for life, without any control, or health examination.” tells us Pauline Déroulède.

Why introduce exams?

For the tennis champion, the answer is simple: “What happened to me four years ago also happens to other people. The media regularly relays stories similar to mine. Periodic reviews have already been implemented in many countries. It is done in France, only following certain illnesses. If you have had a stroke, you will be asked to undergo a medical examination,” Pauline explains.

Pauline Déroulède's online petition has already exceeded 130,000 signatures.

Pauline Déroulède’s online petition has already exceeded 130,000 signatures.

It’s not against seniors

“We know that age is a factor that affects driving ability, but it is not the only one. The proof is that you can have a degenerative disease at 40 or 50 years old. You can have serious vision problems before this age. This measure can only apply to seniors. It must concern all drivers holding a driving license, without discrimination.”

A measure which could take the form of a compulsory medical check-up every ten years, to check that the motorist is able to hold a steering wheel. “After a certain age, the frequency could increase to five and then two years.”

What might this exam look like?

“It is still under discussion obviously but it could look like a series of five simple tests to put in place. At the end of the examination, in case of doubt, we could send the motorist to a driving school for a test in real conditions, on the road. Today doctors are subject to professional secrecy. Tomorrow, these mandatory visits will engage their responsibility. We can also consider a periodic reminder of the rules of the Highway Code. explains Pauline Déroulède.

Why is this measure taking so long to come into effect?

“The car is sacred in France. We touch on the freedom of movement and the right to drive for life, with the license. There is quite simply a lack of political courage, that is obvious. We are reaching an audience of seniors, even if I remind you that this measure concerns all drivers. It’s a large electorate, so politicians are very careful about it.

We also often talk about seniors in rural areas for whom the car is the only means of transport. Alternative mobility solutions must obviously be put in place to allow these people to move around. We must not leave vulnerable people isolated.” Pending a government decision or European harmonization on this issue, Pauline Déroulède’s online petition has already exceeded 130,000 signatures.

Me Jean-Baptiste Le Dall/Photo Amélie Marzouk

Me Jean-Baptiste Le Dall/Photo Amélie Marzouk

What to do if someone close to you is no longer fit to drive?

“With age, and sometimes before, physiological alterations appear: decrease in acuity and visual field and drop in vision, alteration in the perception of brightness, contrasts and colors and decrease in resistance to ‘glare. “recalls Maître Jean-Baptiste Le Dall, a motor vehicle lawyer.

“A dazzled eye takes longer to recover with age, 10 seconds at 25 versus two minutes at over 40 according to road safety. Hearing, reflexes, discomfort for certain movements can alter our behavior.” Therefore, what to do when one of our loved ones becomes dangerous at the wheel?

“In extreme cases, we will try to make this person aware of the risks involved. If the dialogue does not work, there is a solution, rarely applied, it must be admitted. You can report this relative to the prefect of the department. If the prefect judges that the alert is legitimate, he will ask that the holder of the driving license be examined by a certified doctor who is an expert in driving fitness. This doctor will propose, if necessary, arrangements for driving in good safety conditions and in complete legality. The driver can then either keep his license as it is, be issued a limited driving license (in time or with additional mentions) or have his driving license confiscated. Obviously, the driver then has several possible remedies to contest the decision.” explains Maître Le Dall.

Contacted on this subject, the Ministry of Transport and Sustainable Mobility did not respond to our calls.

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