Let me tell you about Dot. She is a friend of my in-laws and well into her 80's although she looks about 60 something. She is intelligent, slim, fit, independent. She plays golf with a 19 handicap, loves her lawyer and pilot sons and has become part of the family and is always in attendance at the annual family picnic. She is sweet, inquisitive, interesting . . she has valid opinions and remembers everything. She also drives a manual vehicle. At her age, she has to have a driving test every 12 months to prove her competency. We all have opinions about the Morris 1100 in impeccable condition, driven by an old bloke in a trilby. They're a little slow, they indicate a little too soon but are they a threat on the roads? I suggest NO!
My father at 72 realised that driving at night was a problem for him. Headlights were glary and he had a lack of confidence but driving from Sydney to Adelaide during daylight hours was not a problem. Because he was mature and not a leadfoot he self-regulated and refused to drive at night which had the added benefit of allowing him to enjoy a couple of scotch's in the evening. Sadly, the only accident he ever had, in over 50 years on the road was swerving to try to avoid a a driver intent on causing an accident as an alibi when returning from a murder scene - This had fatal consequences, my mother was in the passenger seat and killed. None of this was his fault but he helped bolster the ageing driver statistics.
New legislation in NSW will now demand that drivers over the age of 75 pass annual medical checks or lose their license. Now last time I looked the 'risk' group was young men aged 18-25 evidenced by statistics and the fact that insurance for this age group is triple that of drivers over 25! Yet it was a 35 year old street hoon who killed an elderly couple during a street racing incident near where I live in 2007. The University of Adelaide, which has completed a study on the propensity for older drivers to be involved in crashes has found:
If there is a problem regarding older drivers, it is that they are more susceptible to injury. This results in older drivers being over-represented in crashes of high injury severity. This greater likelihood of suffering serious or fatal injuries in a crash is sufficient justification for a specific focus on reducing the crash rates of older drivers.
Clearly it's a case of lies and damn statistics.
There is a new proposal that aged drivers not only need to be tested every two years but that they require a medical examination. This has attracted immediate criticism from pensioner groups, which say the measures amount to age-based discrimination. I have to agree. I've found that older drivers are the best at self-regulation and realise when their capabilities are sub par!
The new measures are due to take effect early next year, every driver over 85 has to take a driving test every 2 years and have a medical examination . . .shouldn't we all? I'll be buggered if I could pass a driving test without weeks of study! The idea is that the new measures will strike the right balance between mobility and independence ensuring the safety of the rest of the community - what? The hoons in their blown Subarus! The wankers in their multi-arialed utes? The truck drivers who want us all to realise that it takes them a kilometre to break so we should give them a wide birth even when they're tailgating us at close range. Oh come on! How many 80 year olds wrap themselves around a tree or explode on median strips!
The changes entrench age discrimination in the licensing system and are not supported by any evidence. Driving a little slower in the vintage car is not a threat. It's annoying but it ain't deadly.
You don't have to be 85 or 90 to have illnesses. You can be 35 and 45 and suffer epilepsy, neurological problems or vision disorders when you shouldn't be behind the wheel of a car. Diabetics can become hypoglycemic as evidenced by a recent truck accident in the US. Kids drink to much or are distracted by music and peer hilarity. Mothers busy whacking the annoying ankle biters can lose control. Teens on their mobile phones lose sight of the road. Chinese people in Camrys . . .well enough said.
Testing if any should involve competency, not health. There are currently 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. Naturally with an ageing population the number of older drivers is going to increase. But if 50 is the new 40 , surely 80 is the new 70. These drivers are active, alert, cognisant of danger and highly experienced. If they pootle along, give them a wide birth and let them be.
There's even been a suggestion that older drivers should be limited to a 10km radius of home because most don't move much out of their circle of knowledge. Bullshit! I know 80 year olds who hitch the caravan and do the big trip around the country! So much for 'the majority of accidents happen within 5km of home theory'. Fortunately, this rule was rejected.
Seriously, drivers under 25 are more likely to crash than drivers over 75. Older driver's don't take risks. I guess the bottom line is that younger drivers crash more often but crashes involving older drivers are more likely to be fatal due to their physical fragility.
We have bus lanes . .why not a pensioner lane . . hey in NSW new neighbourhoods no longer have telegraph poles because 18 year olds insist on crashing into them!