The License to Drive as You Age

© Danielle Robertson Consulting Pty Ltd t/as DR Care Solutions

Have you ever turned down a lift from an older driver for safety reasons? Are you concerned that an older relative or friend with a diagnosed medical condition is still driving?

In addition to remaining in your own home, maintaining a driver’s license is the other treasured bastion of independence of most older Australians.

 

Giving up your license can double your chances of depression and halve your social network says a research review published in a 2016 Journal of the American Geriatrics Society[1].

In our experience, we’ve seen the quite severe decline in older Australians once they’ve handed in their license. It’s a combination of this lack of independence, reduced socialisation and the realisation that they are actually getting old.

 

Traffic fatalities increasing for 65 year olds and over

On the flip side, recent global research has raised concerns about the need to balance old-age mobility with safety. The “Old-Age Mobility” Road Safety Report 2021[2], published by DEKRA, finds that as our global population ages road traffic fatalities in the 65 year and above age group is rising while those in the 18 to 24 years have dropped significantly.

German-headquartered DEKRA is the world’s largest unlisted testing, inspection and certification company. It specialises in road, workplace and home safety. As a community measure, it has been publishing independent road safety research for the past 14 years.

 

Call for mandatory tests for 75 years and over

This year’s report, focused on old-aged mobility, calls for mandatory regular practical driving evaluations for senior citizens over the age of 75; stating that such evaluations play an important role in helping senior citizens maintain their skills.

Managing Director of DEKRA Automobil explains:

“Our mental processing capacity reduces as we age, which has a major influence on the amount of information that an individual can handle at any given time. This makes dealing with a driving task more strenuous, which in turn leads more quickly to overloading in the form of tiredness and mental stress. It also explains the increased risk of being involved in an accident, especially in complex traffic situations.”

 

Position in Australia

So in Australia, do you need to have a practical driving evaluation once you turn 75? The answer is not straightforward. It depends on which State or Territory you live in. Here is a table summarising the position of each.

State / Territory From age of Requirement
Queensland[3] 75 years Valid medical certificate required and carried while driving. Certificate must be renewed every 13 months.
New South Wales[4] 75 years

Annual medical assessment required on renewal.

From 85 years, you must pass a practical driving test every two years to retain an unrestricted license.

Victoria[5] N/A

Onus is on the driver to decide whether they should keep their license.

Tasmania[6] N/A

Onus is on the driver to decide whether they should keep their license.

South Australia[7] 75 years

Driver must complete an annual self-assessment form issued by the SA Government.

Western Australia[8] 80 years

An annual medical assessment is required.

From 85 years, an annual practical driving assessment is required.

Australian Capital Territory[9] 75 years

An annual medical assessment is required.

Northern Territory[10] N/A

The NT Registrar of Motor Vehicles may require you to undertake a medical assessment with your doctor.

 

It is a touchy subject. Back in 2011, Tasmania’s Anti-Discrimination Commissioner found that the then Tasmanian law requiring annual compulsory practical tests for people aged 85 years and over was discriminatory, on the basis of age.

 

Have the conversation, and be prepared

If you would like your loved one to consider giving up their license, be well prepared for that conversation. Read through these tips provided by the SA Government[11].

 

Australia’s very own Institute of Driver Health, established by cerebrovascular neurosurgical specialist, Dr Joan O’Donnell, and occupational therapist, Dr Beth Cheal, provides driver wellness clinics[12] to screen the vision, physical and cognitive abilities of drivers with a medical condition or who have undergone a medical procedure. To undertake the clinic, a referral from a GP is required.

 

A tip from me

For one client determined to retain their license, we organised a “chauffeur” (also a carer). Our client said he had always fancied having a chauffeur. They handed their car keys over to the carer and the carer now drives our client around in the client’s car.

 


Need help?

If you need support and guidance on seeking care assistance for your loved one, please feel free to contact me, Danielle Robertson at DR Care Solutions.

Let’s have an initial discussion on how to set up the right care, support and assistance at the right time and in the right place.

- Contact Danielle - For An Impartial & Confidential Conversation

 

 

Resources

[1]   Geriatrics Healthcare Professionals: Driving Cessation and Health Outcomes in Older Adults
[2]   DEKRA Road Safety Report 2021: Old-Age Mobility
[3]   Dept. Transport & Main Roads, Qld: Licensing Requirements for Drivers Aged 75 and Over
[4]   Transport for NSW: Older Drivers
[5]   Vic Roads: Medical Forms & Fact Sheets - Fitness to Drive
[6]   Tasmanian Government: Transport Services - Renewing Your License
[7]   Govt of South Australia Dept. for Infrastructure and Transport: Fitness to Drive
[8]   Govt of Western Australia Dept. of Transport: Renew My Driver's License - Seniors
[9]   ACT Government: Driver License Renewal
[10] Northern Territory Govt: Medical Fitness to Drive
[11] Govt. of South Australia Dept. for Infrastructure and Transport: Worried About Someone's Driving?
[12] Institute of Driver Health: Driver Wellness Clinics

 

 

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