Driving tests are here to stay

Driving tests are here to stay

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NSW drivers aged 75-79 must have an annual medical review regardless of what type of licence is held.

NSW drivers aged 75-79 must have an annual medical review regardless of what type of licence is held.

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NSW will retain the mandatory re-testing of older drivers despite it being the only Australian state or territory, and one of only two places in the world, to do so.

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NSW will retain the mandatory re-testing of older drivers despite it being the only Australian state or territory, and one of only two places in the world, to do so.

The unpopular testing was described by witnesses to a state government joint standing committee on road safety as age-discriminatory.

A number of submissions to the Staysafe Committee on Driver Education, Training and Road Safety called for a relaxation of the rules.

However, committee members described the testing regime as “robust and defensible, and to recommend its alteration into a less robust system would be retrograde”.

The report says the assessments were “a reasonable balance between the rights of individual drivers and the community, and assists the state to achieve above average performance in fatalities for drivers aged 75 or more”.

It says statistics show older drivers have more crashes than other experienced drivers and are particularly susceptible to injury.

“We also accept that younger inexperienced drivers experience higher crash rates than do older drivers.

“We don’t identify the learner and provisional driver regimes as age-discriminatory, however, but as an evidence-based approach to addressing road safety.”

Giving evidence to the committee, the Combined Pensioners and Superannuants Association said older drivers, like all drivers, could be disqualified following a doctor’s report or after notching up 12 demerit points.

The association’s policy co-ordinator Paul Versteege said Staysafe members should be ashamed and embarrassed, saying the committee had “ignored the overwhelming evidence that older driver road testing does not improve road safety for the elderly or indeed the general population”.

The committee also looked at dementia and driving and found current reporting requirements were unclear. It recommended Transport for NSW introduce measures to make the reporting of dementia and any other medical conditions that may diminish driving capacity mandatory for medical and health professionals.

Do I need a test?

NSW drivers aged 75-79 must have an annual medical review regardless of what type of licence is held.

Drivers aged 80-84 who hold a car (class C) or rider (class R) unrestricted licence also need an annual medical review but do not need to take a practical driving assessment. Holders of heavy vehicle licences LR, MR, HR, or HC need a medical review and a practical driving assessment.

Drivers 85 and older need an annual medical review and an Older Driver Assessment every two years to keep an unrestricted licence or, instead of the assessment, can opt for a modified licence which may restrict how far they can drive.

Assessment made easy

GETTING an Older Driver Assessment has become easier for motorists in northern Sydney.

Instead of having to travel to a Service NSW centre in an unfamiliar area, they can now choose to be assessed on their home turf.

The initiative is offered by rehabilitation and disability support organisation Royal Rehab as part of its Return2Driving initiative.

Assessments are conducted by accredited assessor Peter Kinlock, who devised the scheme.

They can be completed at Royal Rehab’s Ryde headquarters or from the participant’s home in select suburbs.

The scheme kicks in once a driver turns 85 when, as well as obtaining a medical clearance, he or she must undertake an Older Driving Assessment every two years.

However, seniors can opt out of this on-road test by taking a local licence that limits them to within five or 10 kilometres of their home. If they want to drive further afield, they must take the test, which they must pass within the current calendar year.

Royal Rehab scheme participants have the option to complete a refresher lesson, assessment or combined lesson and assessment package.

“We can give them that assessment on their home turf, whereas if they go to the motor registry, they’re probably out of their normal depth of driving,” said Peter, who was a driving assessor with the then RTA for 30 years until his retirement.

He said the refresher sessions allowed drivers to “have a run around their neighbourhood and get a report on how they’re going”.

“No one should be telling an elderly person how to drive: that’s not the point. It is simply to refresh and check that habits haven’t got a bit out of whack, as they can do.

“My motto is experience matters, meaning that if you’ve been driving 50 or 60 years, you must be doing something right,” Peter said.

Peter makes the point that most older motorists drive within their limits.

“As a group they are surprisingly safe. Most of them know when to stop and they have had as successful a career behind the wheel as anyone else.

“The older drivers do their little journeys and continue to do that under the radar and nobody notices. But when they do have an accident, it can be spectacular and everyone notices.”

  • Contact Dianne Douglas on (02) 9808-9328.
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