NSW road crash data shows that people aged 75 years or over are three times as likely to be killed in a crash than people in their 20s. This risk increases for people aged 85 or over, who are at least four times as likely to be killed.
To stay safe on the road it is important for older drivers to be aware of their particular risks and limitations.
Health and driving Driving a motor vehicle is a complex task requiring perception, good judgement, responsiveness and reasonable physical capacity. The ageing process can mean that some or all of these skills and attributes can be affected and, as a result, driving capability can deteriorate.
There are four key health-related changes that can affect ability as a road user – vision, hearing, problem solving and memory. Some disease processes can accelerate these changes.
Additionally, as we age, many people will take medications not required previously or increase the use of medications. Medications can help maintain good health and quality of life however, some medications can affect perception of hazards, reduce reaction times, impair decision-making skills or cause drowsiness.
A visit to the General Practitioner (GP) should be the first step if there have been any changes to health or affects from medications. They may be able to provide advice on how to manage any conditions that may affect safety on the road and possibly suggest alternate medications.
Report Medical Conditions All drivers, regardless of their age, must inform Roads and Maritime Services (RMS) if they have any medical conditions that could affect their ability to drive safely. Reporting medical conditions doesn’t always mean that the person’s licence will be suspended.
RMS may request that a fitness to drive assessment is completed by a medical practitioner.
Where you can go for help To assist with fitness to drive, a GP or specialist doctor can help manage medical conditions. There may be the need for a referral to another health professional or specialist medical practitioner, such as an occupational therapist or optometrist.
Family and friends can be a source of support, not only for transport needs, but as a way to become aware of changes to driving that may not have been noticed by the individual. If concerns about driving are expressed, it’s important to keep an open mind to get the best solution for everyone’s benefit.
Changes to licences at 75 and 85 years
From 75 years From 75 years a medical assessment is required every year to keep an unrestricted licence. Two months before turning 75, a form will be sent by RMS to the person’s postal address. This needs to be taken to the GP for completion. When the medical assessment is completed, the form is to be returned to an RMS motor registry or Service NSW centre before the person’s 75th birthday.
From 85 years Drivers aged 85 years or over have the option to retain their unrestricted licence or change to a modified licence.
Unrestricted Licence In addition to the annual medical assessment, an on-road driving test is required every two years for those who are 85 years old and above to keep an unrestricted licence.
The on-road assessment must be completed before the person’s 85th birthday. RMS will send a letter with more details about the assessment and the option to take a modified licence around two months before turning 85.
Modified licence A modified licence allows a person to drive with a distance restriction to access the services required.
This licence requires an annual medical assessment, but not the on-road driving assessment.
A modified licence limits a distance restriction to enable access to services such as shopping and medical appointments. The conditions on a modified licence are printed on the licence card and penalties apply if the conditions are breached.
Tips for safer driving It’s a good idea to check the following before each drive: seat position, all mirrors, pedal position, handbrake and seatbelt.
It’s best if the driver:
- Is well rested
- Avoids driving if feeling unwell
- Drives during the middle of the day rather than early morning and/or late evening
- Drives short distances
- Drives on familiar roads
- Avoids distractions
- Drives to the conditions
- Maintains a 3-second gap between their vehicle and the vehicle in front to increase response time
- Looks out for other road users
- Shares the driving
For more information Pick up a copy of On the Road 65Plus, Staying independent and safe and A Guide to Older Driver Licensing from the following Central Coast Council library branches: Bateau Bay, Erina, Gosford, Kariong, Kincumber, Lake Haven, The Entrance, Toukley, Tuggerah, Umina Beach and Woy Woy or at the Gosford or Wyong Administration Buildings’ Customer Service Centres.
Alternatively, visit an RMS motor registry or Service NSW centre, call 13 22 13 or visit transport.nsw.gov.au