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Retirement age for drivers
MARCH 22, 2014 04:15  
Lee Boo-jin, daughter of Samsung Electronics chairman Lee Kun-hee, and president and chief executive of Hotel Shilla, has become became the talks of the town for a good deed. An 82-year-old taxi driver smashed into the hotels` revolving doors and injured four people in earlier this year. He had to pay more than 400 million won (370,370 U.S. dollars) in damages. Learning of the elderly driver`s dire financial situation, she exempted him from any liability for damages. Her generosity has raised many eyebrows, but many more people have been surprised by the driver`s age.

The number of elderly drivers` license holders increased from 875,000 in 2005 to nearly 1.1. million in 2010. Fingering all senior citizens as drivers to watch would be age discrimination, just as disrespecting women drivers is gender discrimination. In the United States, a report disproved past concerns that when the baby boomers who were born between 1946 and 1965 become elderly citizens, they would pose significant threats to traffic safety. Some studies argue that today`s senior citizens are less prone to car accidents than those 20 years ago because they are physically and mentally healthier while automobile safety systems have evolved.

Nevertheless, no one can beat time. As people grow older, their ability to cope with sudden and unexpected situations deteriorates due to gradual loss of hearing, vision, flexibility and could be bigger. New Zealand cancels the licenses of drivers when they reach 80 and require them to take a new test every two years. In Britain, people aged 70 and over must get a doctor`s opinion every three years to renew their driver`s licenses.

When American drivers consider retiring from driving, they usually use a checklist, which asks them, among others, if they feel other drivers are driving too fast, whether it takes a long time to react to a road sign and whether they have difficulties shifting from the brake to the accelerator or vice versa. Driving vehicles of public transportation, not to mention personal cars, are directly linked to the life and safety of other people. It seems necessary to regulate driver`s license renewals in accordance with aging and physical changes.

Editorial Writer Koh Mi-seok (mskoh119@donga.com)

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