Arguments for abolishing the medical certificate requirement
Unwarranted discrimination. One of the main arguments for abolishing the requirement for a medical certificate was the prevention of age discrimination against older people. One of the proposers from the Socialist Left Party emphasised that the motion was about 'stigmatisation of a group that we have tended to stigmatise in recent years [and] the decreasing respect that society is showing its elders' compared to young people (17). In the parliamentary debate, a representative of the Labour Party made reference to older drivers who had said that 'as a group, they are stigmatised and treated with suspicion' (17). The spokesperson from the Socialist Left Party further compared older drivers to high-risk groups who 'perhaps should have been screened a bit sooner: those who take drugs, are mentally ill, or have epilepsy or diabetes, etc.' (17). The Labour Party's representative followed suit in the implementation debate (18):
'Obviously, if we were to check all drivers under the age of 25, we would probably find some that should not have been given a driving licence. But why don't we do that? Because we don't think of younger people as one group. They're individuals, and that's how we also need to think of older people.'
However, the discrimination argument was largely about the indignity of cognitive testing, as the Socialist Left Party describes it in their motion (15):
'… performing these tests is disrespectful to older people, and seems degrading. These tests are also biased towards well-educated people due to the theoretical and logical nature of some of the tasks.'
Parallel to this, several representatives pointed out that the tests were not suitable for assessing driving skills and that GPs performed them on autopilot – not on the grounds of suspected cognitive impairment, as was the intention following the parliamentary debate in 2019. Several representatives made the point that doctors have a duty to report patients to the county governor if they do not meet the health requirements for driving licences, regardless of age, and that special checks are not therefore needed for older drivers (10, 15, 17).
The representative for the Socialist Left Party stressed that their party line was based on expert reports on traffic safety from countries with no requirement for a medical certificate for older drivers (15). Several of the unwarranted discrimination arguments nevertheless appeared to be based on anecdotes and unsubstantiated claims.
Risk assessment. The motion states that about 60 000 drivers were over the age of 80 in Norway, and that in 2019 six drivers over the age of 75 died in traffic (15). A representative from the Centre Party also highlighted how 'the number of older drivers killed or injured [has] decreased' despite the rising number of drivers in this age group (17). Against this backdrop, a representative from the Progress Party criticised the minority for 'playing the traffic safety card' and said that he felt he was being portrayed as someone who did not care about traffic safety because of his support for the motion (18).
The spokesperson for the Socialist Left Party referred to a study conducted by the Swedish Transport Agency (22), which concluded that 'the results do not support the introduction of mandatory health checks for older drivers, because […] the probability of being involved in an accident is the same whether someone has dementia or not' (17). In the motion, the Socialist Left Party also refers to a SINTEF report from 2010 which found that drivers over the age of 65 were not more at risk than other age groups. The proposers of the motion acknowledged that the very oldest age group is 'slightly overrepresented in the accident statistics compared to average', but claimed that it is the 'youngest who are really overrepresented' (15).
Representatives from both the Socialist Left Party and the Labour Party pointed out that the oldest drivers, by comparison, drive fewer kilometres, do less night driving, and adapt their driving to their skill level (17). A Labour Party representative further made the point that despite the requirement for a medical certificate, the fact that there are still some older drivers on the road who should not be driving shows that the measure does not work (17). One of the representatives from the Progress Party framed the opposing argument in the debate as if it was about a general fear of older drivers and about whether they should be allowed to drive or not (17):
'There is […] nothing to indicate that the number of accidents will rise sharply (…) even if older people continue to drive. In the Progress Party, we feel that this fear is probably a bit more theoretical than it is based on reality.'
In summary, the majority pointed out that the impact of the medical certificate requirement on road safety is undocumented, and that therefore 'the road safety argument provides insufficient grounds for special treatment [of older people] in terms of a mandatory medical certificate', as stipulated in the committee's recommendation (10).
Rural district and health policy arguments. The majority stressed the importance of a car for mobility in more rural areas. The committee's recommendation cited the motion by stating that cars are 'the link between the home, municipal services, work, leisure activities, and shops. Older people in particular experience a drastic change in quality of life when they lose their driving licence' (10). The argument was that where the alternative to driving is an expensive taxi as opposed to a well-developed public transport infrastructure, the loss of the driving licence leads to isolation (10, 15, 18).
The argument was linked to broader health policy considerations than the mobility of older people. A representative of the Progress Party stated that the issue 'affects several hundred thousand (sic!) people who depend on having a driving licence […] to maintain their quality of life', and added that 'we have received countless enquiries from very many older people who feel discriminated against and unfairly treated, those who have been isolated, or lost their spark, or who are frustrated and depressed' (17). During the implementation debate, this same representative appealed to the Minister of Transport and Communications (Transport Minister) as 'a person who cares a lot […] and has a big heart […] and who loves his fellow human beings very much', before talking about older people who die because they are not allowed to drive: 'older people who have simply taken their own life' because their driving licence was taken away from them (18).
The majority also pointed to the GPs' workload and the societal costs of burdening the health service with 'checking large numbers of healthy, capable people because of their age and not their health', in the words of the Labour Party's representative in the implementation debate (18). The representative suggested rhetorically that an alternative could be to test all drivers, so that 'we can weed out even more [drivers who should not have a driving licence]'.
In summary, the rural-oriented rhetoric was based on anecdotes, some exaggerations, and emotional pressure. None of the socioeconomic, health policy arguments were based on evidence.