A Life Seized: Driving privileges are not rights

A 12 year old child was killed this week in Kaohshiung, Taiwan. He and his mother were on a scooter stopped at an intersection.  They, along with several other people, were run over by an SUV that did not stop at the light. The driver claims to have had an epileptic seizure, yet was still allowed to hold a license and drive.

12 year-old Dies of Injuries After Driver Plows through Scooters

September 6, 2017

A 12 year-old boy has died of injuries sustained last Friday when the driver of an SUV smashed into vehicles stopped at a level crossing in Kaohsiung. Thirteen people were reported injured in the accident, but the boy, named Yang, was the only one to sustain serious injuries.

At 7:26am Friday, September 1, a woman driving an SUV plowed through scooters stopped at a the level crossing, crashed through the crossing barriers, then continued for another 400 meters before crashing into two cars and finally stopping.

A total of 17 vehicles were damaged.

The 45 year-old driver named Zhan claimed that she suffered from epilepsy and must have had a seizure. Zhan said she had no recollection of the accident.

In many countries, drivers with epilepsy must prove that, with medication, they have not had a seizure within a certain amount of time (as little as 3 months in parts of the US, as long as 3 years in the UK, with one year the average).  In motorsports, having epilepsy is a ten year or lifetime ban.

(I’m posting under the assumption that the driver was telling the truth.  There are many incidents in Taiwan where drivers have ploughed right through pedestrians and scooters, committed or tried to commit hit and runs.  I’ve seen a few with my own eyes.)

Many people mistakenly believe that “driving is a right”.  It is not, it is a privilege that can be revoked, and it should be revoked more often.  Pedestrians, cyclists and other drivers have a right to be safe, and that right trumps the privilege of any and all drivers.

The most common response to this is “What about personal freedumb?” as if one person’s mobility were more important than the risk they pose to others.  “What about commuting to work?”  If the government is going to ban drivers, then it should accommodate them in some way – mass transit, help renters move, etc.  But the safety of others – the right to safety – has to come first.

Drivers should be retested annually.  Not relicensed (pay a fee without a test, get a new card), I mean retested, forced to prove they can drive safely, and if they can’t, they lose their license for a specific amount of time (3 months to a year).  Too expensive or onerous?  No more than insuring every car.  And if getting retested drops your insurance premiums by 10%, it pays for itself.

Drivers with road rage and arrogant attitudes (“I’m a great driver!” as they cut off other cars) are often more dangerous than drunk drivers because they are always that way.  They develop bad habits over years or decades because they are never retested, only relicensed.  Taking away their privilege is the only way they will learn.  Drivers should be removed from the road if they can’t drive safely, whether due to aggressive driving, poor eyesight, a loss of mental faculties (temporary or permanent) or any other reason.


  1. says

    I remember when my grandmother was starting to get Alzheimer’s – and she drove anyway. For a while. During that time, there were a lot of scared people (the driving was how we collectively came to realize she had problem; the family immediately acted to get her car keys away from her and find her a driver as soon as we realized what was going on)

  2. sonofrojblake says

    “What about commuting to work?” – Get a job you can walk to, or get a house nearer your job. The world does not owe you a convenient commute.

  3. EigenSprocketUK says

    Autonomous vehicles will probably arrive before mandatory requalification.
    Can’t come soon enough, in my opinion.
    Anecdote: I met someone who was aghast to hear that I lived in the countryside (single track roads / narrow lanes etc). “I couldn’t possibly live there!” I asked why, and they said “I just can’t reverse a car: if I met someone coming in the opposite direction they’d just have to reverse … as far as necessary.”
    Obviously this ‘driver’ had once passed a test, but over the years they had lost the ability and would never be able to pass a basic test again without retraining. They couldn’t even see that this was something for which they could easily retrain themselves.
    Anecdote 2: most UK drivers have manual (stick-shift), and are automatically ‘licensed’ to drive an automatic. Another acquaintance received a temporary replacement car with an automatic transmission but they were unable to go anywhere until their partner came back from a business trip because they didn’t know how to move it off the driveway. This surprised me — because in other respects I saw that they were an observant, courteous and aware driver.

    Pilots have to “keep up competency” in lots of areas, and it seems entirely reasonable for all drivers to requalify regularly in as many skill areas as necessary.

  4. jrkrideau says

    I am all for making it more difficult to get a driver’s licence to begin with. It has been some time since I took a driver’s test (great cars, those Stanleys) but I have often thought of a driver’s licence is little more than proof that you appear to be still breathing.

    I would be all for making a drive’s licence more expensive. At the moment, a basic driver’s licence appears to cost $90 for 5 years.

    I really am not sure what should be in a good driver syllabus that should be mastered for driving per se but we also should be asking for police checks for crimes showing poor impulse control and a doctor’s certificate[1]. (Perhaps proof that an applicant can go a minimum of six hours sans cellphone without without withdrawal symptoms?)

    A dream-wish for me, since I am a cyclist, would be a requirement that any applicant for a driver’s licence must cycle a minimum of eight hours in mixed types of urban traffic without seriously contravening the traffic code.

    I don’t think yearly retesting is feasible on logistic and cost grounds, at least at the moment, but periodic retesting at slightly longer periods sounds excellent. Three no five years, perhaps, and with a healthy fee.

    1. Where, hopefully, Mr. D. Trump’s physician is not licensed.

  5. EigenSprocketUK says

    Jrkrideau: agreed. If drivers (as many as possible) spent time on bikes it seems obvious (to me) that it would improve the safety of cyclists. Though I fear making it part of requalification in case a small, pig-ignorant and selfish fraction would be so aggrieved and embittered about being forced to spend time on two wheels that they would express their grievance by behaving even worse to bikes and riders.

    • jrkrideau says

      Well, I said it was a dream.
      all, pig-ignorant and selfish fraction…behaving even worse to bikes and riders

      Quite possible but given how badly that group seems to behave anyway it might be hard for them to do so without resorting to murder. Of course, some of them probably would.