Road agency: new tax to stop sick drivers

In May 2003 a 50-year old man, following the voices in his head, drove at high speed down a pedestrian street in Stockholm's Old Town, killing two and wounding sixteen.

Now, the Swedish Road Administration (SRA) wants to avoid similar deaths – and other accidents caused by the driver’s illness – by giving doctors more options when it comes to reporting sick drivers.

The SRA has proposed that 15 kronor a year from every vehicle owner should finance five or six new traffic medicine centres. Doctors should be able to send patients to the centres if they suspect that they are unfit to drive.

“Sure, it means an extra tax on all vehicle owners. But more than 40 lives a year will be saved,” said Ingemar Skogö, the director general of the SRA.

The administration also wants to see changes in the driver’s licence laws and commercial traffic laws. Doctors should be given the option of reporting drivers to the district council if they suspect that there are medical reasons why a driver should not be behind the wheel.

Doctors are currently only able to report “obviously inappropriate” cases.

In addition, doctors who do not make a written record that they have told a patient not to drive could be hauled before the Sweden’s medical negligence authority, HSAN, under the proposal.

Lars Englund, the chief medical officer at the Swedish Roads Administration, said that the number of drivers’ licences withdrawn for medical reasons would rise from 4,000 a year to 10,000 a year.

“Nowhere near enough alcoholics are reported as medically inappropriate drivers. It usually only happens when they’re picked up for drunk driving, and by then it’s too late,” he said.

But Thomas Flodin, chairman of the Swedish Medical Association’s ethics committee, expressed doubts about a system which reported doctors for not recording verbal recommendations.

“It could create a system of informants which damages the relationship between doctor and patient. And who exactly is going to report this kind of thing to the medical negligence authority?”

Lars Englund responded that in the most flagrant cases it would be the relatives of victims of road accidents.

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