The Korea Herald

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지나쌤

Govt. mulls conditional driver's licenses for those 65 and up

By Choi Jeong-yoon

Published : May 21, 2024 - 15:19

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Having a driver's license for those aged 65 and over could be made conditional, as the South Korean government is reviewing measures to decrease the number of traffic accidents in the country.

According to the measures announced by the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport and the Korean National Police Agency to reduce traffic fatalities, introducing a conditional license for senior citizens is under consideration.

Under the measures, senior drivers will have different driving permits based on their capabilities. Based on an individual's abilities, the licenses could have limitations such as prohibiting driving at night, on highways or specific speed limits.

Once the study on the implementation of conditional licenses, which the government has been conducting since 2022, is completed at the end of this year, the government will decide whether to introduce such a system by amending related laws next year.

The government's recent decision comes after a rising number of traffic accidents caused by senior citizens.

Although the number of traffic accidents in the country decreased overall, the number of accidents caused by those aged 65 and older has steadily increased, reaching 34,652 in 2022, the highest number since related statistics have been tallied.

They accounted for 17.6 percent of all traffic accidents, up from 15.7 percent a year earlier.

As South Korean society is rapidly aging overall, the number of senior drivers has increased over 42 percent in four years, from some 3.3 million in 2019 to 4.7 million in 2023.

Currently, the government is encouraging drivers over 70 to return their driver's licenses in return for incentives such as a public transportation card worth 100,000 won in Seoul. However, the actual rate of the return is low, hovering around 2 percent, according to the police.

Drivers aged 65 and up also have to take an aptitude test. The test checks drivers' vision, but does not test one's driving skills. Drivers between the ages of 65 and 75 must take the aptitude test every five years and those over 75 every three years.

According to the Transport Ministry, some experts say that a conditional license system should be introduced but since it restricts people's human right to freedom of movement, aptitude tests should be improved and alternative means of transportation should take precedence.

“While ensuring the right to mobility for senior citizens, we will restrict driver qualifications only in cases that threaten the traffic safety of pedestrians,” the ministry said.