New driving law changes calling for older drivers to undergo strict medical checks to stay on the road have been blasted by a leading expert. 

Professor Desmond O’Neill, the chairperson of the Irish Society of Physicians in Geriatric Medicine, slammed the new rules as “ineffective and harmful”.

It comes after the European Commission proposed a series of rule changes which would affect motorists over the age of 70. 

This demographic could be forced to undertake regular medical tests and even refresher courses every five years to keep their driving licence. 

The rule could have a massive impact on motorists living in Ireland who follow EU rules. 

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However, Mr O’Neill slammed EU bureaucrats as he suggested there was a lot of “misguided thinking” about older motorists.

He said: “This is the myth that won’t die – that older drivers are more dangerous and that by screening them, we reduce crashes.”

The expert also revealed that screening older motorists could backfire with road users likely becoming overconfident after passing a test. He warns this could result in more accidents and therefore an increase in deaths among this age group. 

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Instead, Mr O’Neill called for the introduction of restricted driving licences which could limit the movements of some elderly road users. 

This scheme would stop some older road users from travelling at night or remaining below certain speed limit thresholds. He also called for family doctors to be better trained to help advise older motorists when the time was right to give up driving. 

He added: “It still remains an area that’s not adequately provided to doctors because, with the right advice, you can continue driving safely for somewhat longer than people might have thought.”

In the UK, road users do not face mandatory testing when they renew their driving licence at the age of 70.  However, British experts at the Older Drivers Forum demanded changes were needed. 

They have called for a simple eyesight test every three years to ensure older individuals are safe behind the wheel.

He explained: “One of our recommendations to the Department for Transport was that we should at the age of 70 and every three years or when we renew our licence thereafter undertake an eyesight test with an optician. 

“We feel the 20m number late test is antiquated and no longer fit for purpose, All it does is measure a certain distance.”

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