Last year a new enemy image made it to the top in Germany: that SUV, There was a #NoSUV movement. A district mayor of Berlin wanted to ban "such armored vehicles" from the city – after the serious accident of one of these cars, in which two people were killed in September. At that time, some politicians and many citizens declared the SUV to be the biggest risk factor in road traffic. The excited debate seemed wrong to me.
Because: classifying SUVs as dangerous ignores the topic. The biggest risk factor in road traffic is not the vehicle type, but the driver.
As a traffic doctor, I speak from more than 20 years of experience. For a long time I have been examining rows of bus, taxi and truck drivers. Based on the driving license ordinance, they are obliged to have their suitability checked at least every five years (some of them only from the age of 50). My balance from around 100,000 examinations is alarming: with every eighth we diagnose health impairments that question the ability to drive, such as high blood pressure, poor eyesight or diabetes.
I don't suppose that bus, taxi and truck drivers are sick much more often than the average of the population – so everyone would motorist the appropriate age group, the result would be terrifying.
That is why I ask: Every driver who is older than 50 should be regularly checked for his driving suitability. Today it goes without saying that cars have to undergo a TÜV inspection every few years. Why doesn't this matter of course also apply to drivers? I would like it if the 58th German Transport Court Conference, which took place next week, discussed this and sent impulses to politics.
I'm not concerned with discriminating against older drivers. My aim is to reduce the number of accidents. Even before capricious weather or defective vehicle technology, "human error" is the greatest accident risk. This includes someone driving a car drunk, tired or distracted by their cell phone. Another big factor – that's what I'm concerned about – are health restrictions. And they tend to increase the older you get.
For this reason, regular health checks have long been carried out for bus and taxi drivers. Since 1999 truck drivers have had to be examined at least every five years (diabetic patients every three years). Among other things, they have to fill out a questionnaire and have their blood pressure, eyesight and sugar levels checked. A reaction and dementia test is also required from the age of 65. Incidentally, as one colleague once said, the whole thing is "the largest screening test for visual disturbances, diabetes and high blood pressure ever" in Germany.
Many of the drivers I examine have high blood pressure; The severity increases the risk of someone at the wheel suffering a stroke or heart attack. Every tenth person has a dangerously poorly adjusted or undiscovered diabetes. Every eighth person has untreated poor eyesight. Professional drivers come to me who know that they can no longer see clearly enough and still have no glasses, be it for reasons of cost or convenience. Because of night blindness, some need specially tinted glasses to be able to drive safely in the dark.