Organizations and professionals in the field of traffic health and safety are taking risks. They want to stop Storting’s decision to remove health certificates for older drivers.
The case has been discussed by the two transport ministers for months.
Neither the new Transport Minister Jon-Ivar Nygård (Labor Party) nor his predecessor Knut Arild Hareide (KrF) have so far fulfilled Storting’s intention to remove health certificate.
Last week, Hareide was criticized by the Storting control committee for telling the media that he did not want to remove the requirement for mandatory health certificates. At the same time, he announced in the draft state budget for 2022 that further work is being carried out on this issue.
Hareide’s successor, Jon-Ivar Nygård (Labor Party), took office as minister in the Ministry of Transport and Communications four months ago. He is “now considering how this case should be followed up,” according to an email he wrote to VG.
– The government is required by law to study the consequences of proposed regulatory changes. This obligation also applies to decisions of Stotting. This measure wasn’t studied before Storting made his decision, and later study work had to be done afterward, Nygård explains.
Meanwhile, there is increasing pressure from professionals and directly affected road users not to remove mandatory health certificates for older drivers.
Johannes Buhaug, 54, from Lier, was sitting on his motorbike on a hot summer day in 2020, when an elderly motorcyclist (then 78 years old) violated his duty to give way and was driving the wrong way at an intersection at the exit of the E18 from south to south. Tranby in Lier. Having violated an obligation to yield, he swerved his car in a U-turn over three solid barriers and into the oncoming lane. This maneuver failed to evade the motorcyclist Buhaug.
– I didn’t have a chance to stop, and flew like a starfish fluttering in the air. I landed on the road and broke my back, completely unable to move. Luckily, there won’t be any 18-wheel drive when I lay there, Buhaug told VG. In retrospect, the accident still had consequences for the young man.
Stressed and confused
The man (now 79 years old) who drove it, was convicted of violating the Criminal Code and the Traffic Act, he received a suspended prison sentence and had to pay compensation to Buhaug.
The elderly driver, who the court said was stressed and confused during the offence, was also sentenced to a year and a half of driving rights. After a thorough assessment, the court found strong doubt that the age and health issues in the case were of such a nature that “the sentence should have been made fully conditional”.
The man from Innlandet pleaded guilty. The older driver’s defense attorney, Martin Smith, had previously told Drammens Tidende that his client apologized for what happened, and that it was for a momentary inattention.
Smith did not want to comment further about it to VG. VG has not been able to contact its client.
The traffic case, Johannes Buhaug, is open about the fact that the violation has consequences:
– Like my life, it’s ruined. Me and the woman on the mountain on horseback, as we have been doing for a long time, I can only forget about it after breaking my back. Keep going to the Alps and slalom and going into the mountains – I thought I could shoot the white stick after that, Buhaug explained.
Won’t get rid of all parents
He reacted strongly to the fact that the Storting majority led by the Progress Party would remove the requirement for a health certificate for drivers over the age of 80 through a so-called letter of intent in Storting.
– It’s too stupid that the question of health certificates about life and road safety boils down to political populism. This doesn’t happen once you reach the age when the professionals think you have to log in to get a check, the record expires. This is to get rid of those who are not fit, said the 54-year-old from Lier.
Bård Hoksrud (Frp) is a former Secretary of State at the Ministry of Transportation. He is now one of the driving forces at Storting to abolish the health certificate requirement for drivers over 80 years of age.
Hoksrud stressed the importance of the ministry following up on Storting’s decision to remove this requirement.
Hoksrud: Not just pacing
– Isn’t it important to assess the consequences of revocation of health certificate, Hoksrud?
– The ministry has the opportunity to assess this over a longer period of time and several times. It’s not just spit-and-run on our part. The bottom line is that ministries and unions have also been tasked with looking at other alternative measures. It’s still wrong to cut all old people on a comb by asking for a health certificate, answered Hoksrud.
He believes that doctors, but also relatives and elderly drivers themselves have a responsibility to judge whether the car should be left standing.
– Traffic victim Johannes Buhaug thinks you are involved in political populism?
– We don’t believe that parents should be completely free to drive a car. Storting has a more nuanced look than the one presented here. Initially, this was something the SV and the ruling Labor Party also supported, replied the FRP veteran who for years sat on the transport committee, but is now on the health and care committee at the Storting.
Raising the age limit for health certificates
The Minister of Manpower, Minister of Transport Jon-Ivar Nygård, is concerned that the number of parents behind the wheel is increasing.
– At the same time, the elderly have better health and increased mobility needs. That is the reason why the age limit for health certificates has been increased from 75 to 80 years. Nevertheless, this development in itself provides reason to pay special attention to ensuring that the ever-increasing number of elderly drivers have the necessary prerequisites for safe interactions with other road users, Nygård believes.
The National Association for Public Health, Trygg Traffick, the Norwegian Medical Association and the Norwegian Optometrists Association are among the organizations warning against removing the requirement for a health certificate.
They believe that removing the requirement without having an alternative unjustifiably goes against some governments’ vision of zero deaths in traffic.
– It is allowed to think about. Stortings and governments should listen to professional advice and maintain mandatory health certificates, Secretary General Mina Gerhardsen of the National Association for Public Health and director Jan Johansen of Trygg Trafikk said in a joint statement.
– As an organization of interest to people with dementia and their relatives, we are concerned with protecting people who no longer have the health to drive a car from the risk of harming others and themselves, Gerhardsen added.
The Minister of Transportation and Communications wrote that he recognized the strong commitment of these organizations, and the National Association was no exception.
– They have special expertise in dementia, both on the disease and what challenges it poses for those who suffer from it, but also how it affects the lives of some 400,000 relatives, according to Nygård.
He rejected all accusations that the government was rehearsing the Storting decision.
The minister reminded that part of the decision also means it must be ensured that no one is allowed to continue driving if they are not eligible for it.
– This is a very demanding task, which then requires the assessment of several professional bodies, also with the possibility of alternative courses of action, according to Nygård.
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