Licensing system maintained to safeguard older drivers
An independent review has recommended medical and driving tests continue for older drivers in NSW, Centre for Road Safety General Manager Marg Prendergast said today.
"The NSW Government established an Older Drivers Taskforce in November 2011 to determine if the licensing rules for drivers over 75 should be revised," Ms Prendergast said.
"After an extensive look at crash and medical evidence, the taskforce found that the current approach to licensing strikes the right balance between mobility for older drivers and safety for all road users.
"We want older drivers to keep driving, as long as they are physically and mentally able to do so. Based on the taskforce’s recommendations the Government has decided to maintain the current licensing scheme.
"The assessments we ask older drivers to undertake ensure that they are protected as well as other road users," Ms Prendergast said.
While the yearly medical assessment after the age of 75 is mandatory, drivers aged over 85 can choose to retain an unrestricted licence by taking an on-road driving assessment every two years or obtain a modified licence without a formal test.
The modified licence limits the radius of travel from the person’s home to enable them to drive to access local services including shopping, community activities and medical appointments.
"Statistics uncovered by the taskforce showed an increase of 94 per cent in the number of drivers aged over 85 in the five years up to June 2011.
"The evidence clearly showed that as the number of older drivers on our roads increases, so too does the risk of more crashes for this group. This group has the highest percentage of driver casualties who are killed of all age groups.
"The taskforce had the opportunity to work with medical experts and found one of the key issues for older drivers is dementia and the risk this poses to road safety," Ms Prendergast said.
"Once someone enters the 65 plus age bracket, dementia becomes a growing risk, and one that can affect a person’s judgment and ability to drive safely due to loss of memory, limited concentration or sight problems.
"It is health risks such as this that need to be monitored closely, to ensure older drivers and other road users are safe."
The taskforce recommended more could be done to communicate with older drivers about flexible licensing options, such as a modified licences and how to make the transition from the driver licensing system.
"We recognise that making the decision to give up your licence is not an easy one, so Transport for NSW will increase communication to older drivers about their options, including information about other transport options in their areas," Ms Prendergast said.
"More research needs to be done into increased safety features in vehicles and also the role technology can play in supporting older drivers and medical practitioners."
"We also understand that older drivers are giving up a form of identification when they hand in their license, so to ensure they retain 100 points of identification, the Government has committed to provide a free NSW photo card to older drivers who retire from driving."