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LCQ20: Ensuring the driving ability of elderly professional drivers
     Following is a question by the Hon Leung Man-kwong and a written reply by the Secretary for Transport and Logistics, Mr Lam Sai-hung, in the Legislative Council today (May 3):
     It has been reported that in January this year, an 87-year old taxi driver was involved in three traffic accidents within nine days, and that in March, there was again a traffic accident involving a taxi driver aged 84, causing injuries to five persons. There are views pointing out that the existing physical fitness certification mechanism devised for driving licence applicants has failed to ensure that elderly professional drivers are fit for driving with regard to their health conditions. In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:
(1) of the number of elderly drivers holding valid commercial vehicle and private car driving licences at present, and the number of traffic accidents involving such drivers in each of the past two years, with a breakdown by (i) class of vehicles (i.e. medium goods vehicle, heavy goods vehicle, taxi, private light bus, public light bus, private bus, public bus and private car) and (ii) the age group to which the drivers belonged (i.e. aged 70 to 79, 80 to 89 and 90 or above);
(2) given that driving licence applicants aged 70 or above are currently required to provide the Transport Department with a Medical Examination Certificate (the Certificate) completed by a registered medical practitioner at least once every three years, of the criteria adopted by the Government for determining the requirement of that number of years;

(3) given that the Certificate only requires medical practitioners to fill in the examination results relating to the visual and acoustic aspects of the driving licence applicants concerned, whether the Government will add examination items and provide guidelines for medical practitioners in this regard, so as to ensure the driving ability of elderly professional drivers; if so, of the details; if not, the reasons for that; and
(4) apart from requiring driving licence applicants aged 70 or above to submit the Certificate, whether the Government has other means to ensure that elderly professional drivers are sufficiently fit to drive; if so, of the details; if not, the reasons for that?
     The Government has all along been attaching great attention and importance to road safety. On one hand, the Government disseminates the message of safe driving among drivers and promotes the road safety awareness of road users through educational and publicity efforts; on the other hand, the Government protects road users, including elderly professional drivers, through regulation by laws. In consultation with the Transport Department (TD), my reply to the question raised by the Hon Leung Man-kwong is as follows:
(1) There is no definition of professional drivers in the existing legislation. For the purpose of classifying driving licences, medium goods vehicles, heavy goods vehicles, taxis, private light buses, public light buses, private buses and public buses are generally regarded as commercial vehicles; and the drivers of these classes of vehicles are generally regarded as professional drivers. As at end-March 2023, the number of valid full driving licence holders by class of vehicles and age group of drivers set out in the question is tabulated below. Since a driving licence may have endorsements of more than one class of vehicles, the sum of the relevant statistics is greater than the total number of driving licence holders of commercial vehicles.
Vehicle class Age group of drivers
70-79 80-89 90 or above
Medium goods vehicle 20 491 1 303 53
Heavy goods vehicle 17 063 1 240 51
Taxi 29 754 1 662 51
Private light bus 22 062 1 697 61
Public light bus 21 214 1 624 56
Private bus 12 985 644 18
Public bus 12 968 735 22
Private car 84 686 6 730 318

     The number of traffic accidents by the age group of drivers and vehicle class set out in the question in the past two years is tabulated below.
Year Age group of drivers concerned Vehicle class
Medium goods vehicle Heavy goods vehicle Taxi Private light bus Public light bus Private bus Public bus Private car
2021 70 - 79 21 10 403 7 162 0 5 213
80 - 89 0 0 13 0 17 0 1 22
90 or above 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 2
2022 70 - 79 19 8 429 5 151 0 13 205
80 - 89 0 0 23 1 9 0 0 24
90 or above 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 3
(2) to (4) The Road Traffic (Driving Licences) Regulations (Cap. 374B) (the Regulations) stipulate that any person aged 70 or above who applies for a full driving licence of any class of vehicle shall produce a medical examination certificate completed and signed by a registered medical practitioner who is acceptable to the Commissioner for Transport on a date not earlier than four months before the application to prove that the applicant is medically fit to drive and control that particular class of vehicle. The validity period of the driving licences of such applicants is one year or three years, depending on their choices. They are required to submit a medical examination certificate once a year or every three years, subject to the validity period of the driving licence they are holding.
     Under the prevailing requirements, the medical examination certificate must be completed by a registered medical practitioner. The form lists out areas which the registered medical practitioner may have to consider during the medical examination conducted for the applicant. Such areas include eyesight, mental state, skeletal and muscular system, balance and co-ordination, hearing and other aspects. The registered medical practitioner should also exercise his professional judgment to conduct any other test which he thinks appropriate and include whatever test on the applicant as necessary in order to obtain adequate information to facilitate his completion of the conclusion of the report.
     The Government understands that the physical condition of drivers is important for ensuring the safety of road users and thus has all along been concerned about the physical fitness of drivers. Physical fitness requirements of drivers and related issues are also kept under review. The TD set up an expert panel in June last year to further review the diseases or physical disabilities specified in the Regulations, the existing content of the medical examination certificate and the arrangements of the physical fitness examination of the drivers, etc, as well as to provide professional advice on relevant matters. As the content of the review involves professional medical knowledge, the TD has also engaged a consultant team from the School of Public Health, Li Ka Shing Faculty of Medicine of the University of Hong Kong to help consolidate the professional advice offered by the expert panel and the healthcare sector from the medical perspective, conduct in-depth studies and offer support to the conduct of the consultation and legislative amendment work.
     The Government and the expert panel members have reached a consensus in general on the key recommendations, and are now consolidating and finalising the details and arrangement of some of the recommendations. We expect to launch the consultation, including consulting the Panel on Transport of the Legislative Council, by the middle of this year. Other stakeholders, including the Transport Advisory Committee, the Road Safety Council and relevant trades, will be subsequently consulted to seek their views about the feasibility of the recommendations and the impact on the trades, etc with a view to finalising the review results and specific implementation details as soon as practicable.
Ends/Wednesday, May 3, 2023
Issued at HKT 12:20
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