THE Transport Accident Commission has called on older drivers and their families to watch for signs that their ability to drive safely may be declining.
TAC CEO Janet Dore said age wasn’t necessarily a barrier to safety on the roads as long as older drivers remained aware of their health and were ready to adapt their driving habits if they noticed anything that could pose a risk.
“In our experience, older drivers are very good at picking up on the signs that they may not be as safe behind the wheel as they once were and, in most cases, they will self-regulate,” Ms Dore said.
“That could mean deciding not to drive at night or not driving at peak hour when traffic conditions are more complex to navigate.”
Between July 1 last year and June 15, 2015, 21,014 drivers aged 71 or older had their licences suspended or cancelled after failing a VicRoads medical assessment. The figure had increased from 19,745 the previous financial year.
“While it may be true that the number of older drivers having their licence taken away is increasing, that needs to be viewed in the context of our ageing population and the fact that there are a lot more older drivers now on the roads,” Ms Dore said.
“We need to acknowledge that each road user group has its own issues. For older drivers it can be health issues and the ageing process, whereas with new young drivers the main issue is inexperience.”
Ms Dore said decades of driving experience meant the vast majority of older drivers were capable behind the wheel. They were also less likely to take risks than younger drivers.
“One of the main reasons for the elderly being over-represented in road trauma is that their bodies are frail, meaning relatively minor impacts can result in hospitalisation.”
The TAC recommends that older drivers talk to their doctor or pharmacist about the impact any medicine they may be taking could have on their driving.
They can also take advantage of safe driving programs including the RACV’s Years Ahead Program and the TAC-funded Community Mobility for Older People Program.
Ms Dore said family members also had a role to play to keep older drivers safe.
“It’s important family members monitor their older relatives and have a supportive and ongoing discussion about their driving.”
VicRoads produces and provides free of charge the Victorian Older Drivers’ Handbook, providing a self-assessment checklist and information on legal obligations, medicines and how and when to make the transition to driving less or ceasing driving.
For more information, visit www.vicroads.vic.gov.au