Insurance Helpline With Cedric Stephens
I have often wondered why there have not been vision and cognition tests, for example, before licences are granted. These should be done for all drivers especially because of the quality of the driving that I see on our roads on a daily basis.
- D.N.S., Kingston 8.
Your questions are thought-provoking. Many motorists, including persons who sell motor insurance, are unfamiliar with the Road Traffic Act.
This is in spite of the fact that this law affects the operation of vehicles and impacts the insurance business in a very direct way. It also states how driver's licences are issued. Parliament is now looking at making changes to the act.
This led one columnist - who uses the pseudonym The Gavel - to this newspaper to criticise lawmakers. In an article published on October 1 under the headline 'Proposed Licensing System Going in the Wrong Direction', he calls the topic of graduated licences that legislators are studying "stupid".
Your email has caused me to take a critical look at how I go about getting accurate information when I try to answer questions like yours.
My immediate reaction on reading it was to contact the Island Traffic Authority (ITA), the agency that administers the Road Traffic Act. This was the wrong approach. I should have googled the act.
After doing so, I read Part II, sections 16 to 25. I learnt that the oral information that the ITA source gave me was false. It appeared that he had not read or understood the act and was probably unaware that a Google search would find it or that it could be downloaded from the Justice Ministry's website.
ONE AGE LIMIT
There is only one age limit in the Act. It appears in Section 18, Subsection (1)(iii). It is the minimum age limit for obtaining a driver's licence. This is what got The Gavel's knickers in a twist! The limit would definitely not apply to your friend. That age is 17 years, or in the case of an applicant for a motor cycle driver's licence, he (or she) should be at least that age.
Section 16 (1) says: "person shall not drive a motor vehicle unless he is the holder of a licence for the purpose (in this act referred to as a 'driver's licence') and a person shall not employ any person to drive a motor vehicle on a road unless that person so employed is the holder of such a driver's licence".
Subsection (2) reads: "A driver's licence issued under this Act shall continue in force for the prescribed period and the licence duty in respect thereof shall be paid in full."
Section 18 (1) lists several things that are necessary before a driver's licence is issued. In subsection (vi), the applicant for a private or motor cycle driver's licence has to make "a declaration" that he or she "is not suffering from any such disease or physical disability as may be specified in the form, or any other disease or physical disability which would be likely to cause the driving by him (her) of a motor vehicle to be a source of danger to the public".
Applicants for general licences are required to present medical certificates that certify the same.
The law gives the licensing body the power to refuse to grant and or to renew driver's licences under Section 19.
Subsection (2) of Section 20 extends that authority so that where that entity "has reason to believe any person who holds a driver's licence is suffering from a disease or physical disability is likely to cause the driving by him of a motor vehicle ... to be a source of danger to the public" it can "revoke the licence".
IMPLICATIONS FOR SENIORS
The motorist has the right to challenge any decision to cancel his driving licence under these circumstances.
My ITA source, on the other hand, interprets these parts of the law to mean that a driver's licence is granted for life unless it is rescinded by the courts.
The requirement for persons 70 years old and older to submit medical certificates in order to obtain motor insurance is not imposed by law.
Insurers are the sole force behind the practice. In addition, the age of an applicant for motor insurance and the state of his health are what insurers call rating factors.
Insurance contracts impose a special duty on applicants for motor insurance. They are obliged to disclose whether or not they suffer from defective vision, hearing, heart conditions, epilepsy, and diabetes, or "any physical or mental disability or infirmity".
Provisions like these do not appear in the act except in the case of persons who are applying for a driver's licence.
Provided that the senior citizen you referred to has not had his driver's licence revoked, has managed to jump through the many hoops erected by his insurer, takes the advice of his physician and retains his confidence to drive, why should be prevented from doing so?
Cedric E. Stephens provides independent information and free advice about the management of risks and insurance. Send feedback to email@example.com or SMS/text message to 812-7233