Should older drivers in Sweden be retested?

5:42 min

Sweden's doctors are under pressure to respect the law and report elderly patients who are unfit to drive due to medical reasons.

Two serious road accidents involving elderly drivers recently have brought the issue into the limelight. The Swedish Transport Agency has renewed calls to set higher demands on doctors. The agency would like to see more doctors reporting elderly patients who are regarded as medically unfit to drive.

Every year, the Transport Agency revokes between 8,000 and 9,000 driving licenses on health grounds, such as dementia, failing vision and strokes. But it should be many more, according to Lars Englund, the Transport Agency's chief medical officer.

Every year 25,000 people get a new dementia diagnosis, while there are 30,000 strokes each year, not to mention the thousands of people with new eye conditions, so the numbers of driving licenses taken away should be much higher," he tells Radio Sweden. 

Doctors are obliged by law to report their patients to the Transport Agency if they suffer from diseases that render them unfit to drive. But very few follow the rules, according to a study last year by the Karolinska University hospital which found that only one in ten people diagnosed with dementia was reported by their doctor.

Lars Englund tells Radio Sweden that many GP's ask their patients to make a promise to stop driving if they do not report them to the Transport Agency.

"Doctors at local healthcare centres also have the possibility under Swedish law to have a gentleman's agreement with the patient not to drive if they think they follow that and I believe this is used too much."

The Swedish Medical Association, which previously opposed an extended notification obligation for doctors has now changed its stance. The President of the Swedish Medical Association, Heidi Stensmyren, tells Radio Sweden that patients should be allowed to have their own GP, unlike the current system, which works against close relationships.

The doctors are unable to take back a patient to do a follow-up. The patient goes to a number of doctors without having their own personal doctor to come back to. This lack of continuity means the medical responsibility is unclear."

In the past week, six children were injured by a driver in his 80's. He told police that he had been dazzled by the sun. Then on Tuesday, an elderly woman died and two others were injured after a woman in her 80's mistook the accelerator for the brake pedal and crashed into people in front of an entrance to a healthcare centre in southern Stockholm.