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Gov't puts cab drivers' livelihoods before passenger safety.

The government is expected to step back from its plan to make elderly taxi drivers take mandatory medical examinations, causing concern it is succumbing to pressure from them while ignoring passenger safety.

The Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport said it is considering allowing elderly taxi drivers to take a driver's aptitude test at hospitals instead of undergoing the mandatory medical examination it had previously planned.

The government was scheduled to introduce a mandatory computer-based exam for older taxi drivers next year, in which drivers aged 65 or older should prove they are fit both physically and cognitively to continue driving.

"The mandatory test for taxi drivers will be introduced next February as planned. However, we plan to complement it by allowing drivers to substitute it with an aptitude test at hospitals," an official at the transport ministry explained. He added the details of the aptitude test will be prepared, comprehensively taking into account the opinions of doctors.

While the government says it will be complementing the mandatory test, there is concern the aptitude test won't be effective in screening drivers who should not be on the road.

Elderly taxi drivers have been increasing steeply amid the aging population and due to the poor social safety net. Those aged 65 or older were 22 percent of the country's cab drivers last year, which is much higher than the 7 percent of bus drivers or 8 percent of truck drivers.

Though they have built up expertise in driving, it is also true an increasing number of traffic accidents are caused by elderly drivers. According to Seoul City, 41.6 percent of traffic accidents involving taxis were with elderly drivers in 2016.

The ministry thus proposed a revision to the public transportation law in February, which obligates taxi drivers to undergo mandatory tests the same as bus drivers. Elderly bus drivers have been subject to the mandatory test since last year, with between 1.5 and 2 percent failing the test. Drivers aged between 65 and 69 should take the test every three years, while those aged 70 or over should take it every year.

During the 90-minute exam, drivers are evaluated on their viewing angle, reaction to traffic signals, selective attention, special judgment on the road, visual memory and capacity to maintain attention. They are also tested on multitasking. If they fail the exam, they can retake it after two weeks. However, they cannot drive until they pass the test.

Elderly taxi drivers, however, have been fiercely opposing the plan, demanding an aptitude test at hospitals instead of being subjected to the computer-based test.

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Publication:The Korea Times News (Seoul, Korea)
Date:Apr 16, 2018
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