Sick drivers blamed for accidents

Some 80,000 people each year are told by doctors that illness makes them unsuitable to drive. Despite this, many of them continue to drive, not fully aware of their illness. Doctors are often uncertain as to how to report unsuitable drivers.

According to a survey, eight out of ten family doctors are uncertain about how how judge older drivers’ driving ability. They are often afraid of reporting them due to a fear that to do so might harm the doctor-patient relationship.

Every year 25,000 Swedes are diagnosed with dementia and 30,000 suffer strokes. Several thousand people suffer vision problems or mental problems which make them unsuitable to drive. Autopsies on drivers killed in road accidents show that half of those aged 65-75 showed signs of previously undiagnosed dementia. Among those over 75, the figure was even higher.

Swedish law obliges doctors to report unsuitable drivers to the county administrative board. Despite this, only 2,044 such reports were made last year.

“A number of deaths and injuries in road traffic accidents could have been avoided in doctors had fulfilled their obligations,” said Kurt Johansson, a road accident specialist at the Karolinska University Hospital in Huddinge, to Svenska Dagbladet.

Authorities estimate that between 50 and 100 fatal road accidents per year could be avoided if the drivers had their licences taken away by doctors.