From my experience, the various government departments put in charge of issuing drivers licenses and decreeing road rules (etc.) tend to be the most ludicrously bureaucratic of public institutions. I have personally experienced this in both Australia and Sri Lanka, and by extension (through sitcoms and comedians) in many other places besides. However, normally this is an area in life where we just grin and bear it; we try not to shout at the feckless and disinterested staff, we diligently take our numbered tickets and slowly trudge through the never-ending rope mazes (while said staff tap away at their keyboards and avoid eye contact), and we dutifully provide ludicrously large amounts of identification and complete ludicrously large forms to accomplish the most minor of things. However, thanks to my recent medical problems, I have now encountered a level of bureaucracy so ridiculous that I can no longer simply just grin and bear it. The New South Wales Government “Transport, Roads & Maritime Services” (absurdly shortened to RTA) have dropped an anvil on this particular camel’s back.
Regular readers will be aware that I was recently diagnosed with a brain tumour and underwent surgery to remove it. These events were triggered in early May by what is called a “Grand Mal” seizure, and were followed by five other (less serious) seizures. What’s more, I have now learned that I have been experiencing seizures for about five years without realising it. As a result of all this, I have been informed that RTA regulations prohibit driving for six months after a seizure, and, therefore, as my last seizure was only a few weeks ago, I must wait six months before I can drive, and then clear a few bureaucratic hurdles to make it all legal. Specifically: I must go to the RTA and acquire a few forms, then go to my doctor and get him to testify that I have not had a seizure in six months, and finally go back to the RTA to give them my completed papers to push around (oh what fun for someone who can’t drive).
Now, I have absolutely no problem with the six-month wait period. Research has shown that the likelihood of repeat seizures reduces with time, and, to be honest, I am questioning ever driving again. What I do take issue with is the whole “go to my doctor” step. Simply, why is this necessary? There is no way my doctor can know anything about my condition without me telling him. My doctor does not follow me around. He does not sleep on the floor in my room. He does not sit behind me in the cinema. He does not hide in the bushes while I walk my imaginary dog. In short, unless I tell him I have had a seizure, he is absolutely clueless. Unless I tell him I am having problems, he is utterly clueless. So, then, the system is fundamentally built on some level of trust. It is built on the idea that I am completely open and honest about my health with my GP. So, if the system is built on trust anyway, why not eliminate the GP, and make the bond of trust between myself and the RTA? Why not make me fill out a longer and more detailed form? The RTA could tack on a few extra questions about medication and other issues and make the serious ones instant veto. I will be saved from a lot of travel and wait time (as well as other hassle), the RTA employees will be saved from an encounter with a rather irate customer, and Medicare will be saved from paying for a rather expensive and useless middleman. Of course, this is assuming the RTA is looking for the most efficient solution rather than more wonderful bureaucracy.