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Licence changes for older drivers

Friday, 4th April, 2008

NSW drivers aged over 75 will from next year have to undergo an annual medical assessment - a licence requirement which now kicks in at the age of 80. The change is one of a number of driving licence reforms aimed at making roads safer, but maintaining older drivers' mobility and independence, the NSW Government said yesterday. However in an easing of regulations, drivers over the age of 85 will only need to take a practical driving test every two years, instead of annually. The practical driving test will also be revised to better reflect the experience of older drivers, said NSW Roads Minister Eric Roozendaal.

The reforms, which have angered a major pensioners' group, will come into effect early next year. "These reforms will strike the right balance between mobility and independence ... ensuring the safety of the rest of the community," Mr Roozendaal said."There was an exhaustive public consultation process... on over-85 drivers and we received more than 24,000 submissions. "There was strong interest in the community, and overwhelming from the public... for the over-85 drivers."

There are about 23,000 over-85 drivers in NSW but that figure is expected to increase to more than 52,000 by 2023, according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics.

In another change, accredited driver training agencies will be able to conduct the driving tests, now done by the Roads and Traffic Authority (RTA). The reduction in the age for medical testing is designed to earlier detect issues such as deteriorating eyesight and dementia.

The Combined Pensioners and Superannuants Association (CPSA) condemned the changes. "The changes entrench age discrimination in the licensing system and are not supported by any evidence," policy co-ordinator Paul Versteege said in a statement.

"The changes are essentially the same as proposed by the RTA six months ago. "Twenty-four thousand older drivers got angry then and made submissions to the RTA, the minister has now taken six months to conclude that those proposals were a good idea."

A proposal put forward last year for older drivers to be restricted to their local area would not be implemented, Premier Morris Iemma told Fairfax radio yesterday.

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