NSW is the only state in Australia which requires drivers to take a driving assessment at age 85 as well as a medical examination.
In effect it means a driver in NSW has to pass a test at age 85 to drive on the same road as someone visiting from another state who hasn't taken a test since they were 17. The driving assessment has to be repeated every two years or the driver can opt to take a restricted licence which only allows them to drive a few kilometres from home - as determined by their GP. In rural and regional areas this can be very difficult for the older person as it increases social isolation, depression and vulnerability.
It is an anomaly that has prompted peak body the Association of Independent Retirees to make a submission to the state government asking it to scrap the assessment to make regulations across states more consistent.
AIR maintains the enforcement of a compulsory practical driver assessment for people aged 85 is directly contrary to the NSW Government's Road Transport (Drivers Licencing) Regulations 2017 which states, the object of this regulation is to assist in providing for a consistent administration and enforcement of the drivers licencing system throughout Australia.
AIR wants to see the mandatory test abolished and replaced with one given only if specifically determined by a GP and only if there are any concerns about an individual's health and fitness to drive.
In NSW a normal class C driver is required to get annual medical checks to assess an individual's fitness to drive from age 75 and an annual medical test plus a driver safety assessment every two years from aged 85.
In other state and territory jurisdictions the rules are simpler and less onerous. Victoria has a 'self-assess' system and drivers must notify VicRoads if they have any physical, alertness or mental conditions or eye sight issue or concerns that might affect their ability to drive safely.
Queensland has the requirement for an annual medical certificate every year from age 75 but has no requirement for driver tests. South Australia has a system where an older driver completes a self-assessment Medical Fitness to Drive Form from age 75.
In WA drivers aged over 80 are required to have an annual medical assessment and a driver's test is only required if recommended by a medical practitioner. In Tasmania and Northern Territory no tests are required although the driver must self-assess.
Robert Curley, NSW President of the Association of Independent Retirees said drivers, in the main, did not object to a medical test but found the compulsory driver assessment onerous, unfair and very stressful.
"They are fearful of this test. I've heard people say they would sooner be dead than lose their licence," he said.
In 2008, older driver licensing reforms included reducing the frequency of the on-road driving assessment from annually to biennially for drivers 85 years and over. The design of the on-road driving assessment for these drivers was also changed from a 'full' driving test to assessment of safe driving ability.
In its report 'Review of Road Safety Issues for Future Inquiry' in 2018 the NSW Parliament StaySafe Committee did not recommend any changes to the current NSW older driver testing regime, noting "it is a reasonable balance between the rights of drivers and safety of the community".
They are fearful of this test. I've heard people say they would sooner be dead than lose their licence.- Robert Curley, President or the Association of Indpendent Retirees NSW.
"Driving brings a sense of independence, freedom and convenience for most people and also often provides a way to get to social and leisure activities, volunteer or paid work, or to travel," said Tara McCartney from Transport for NSW.
"Our older driver licensing system aims to strike a balance between safety for everyone on the road, and keeping older members of our community independent and moving, with flexible licensing options to better suit their needs."
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