Thursday, April 03, 2008

Geriatric Jalopying

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!


ian said...

The first time we went to Canada (July 1998), we hired a 24 foot camper van/RV and went up into the Rockies (the good lady of the house driving, I wouldn't have contemplated it, I don't even drive in France). The first campground we got to, I was trying to hook up the water, electricity, drainage, etc and an American came over to help. Their van was the length a fifty seater coach would be here in Ireland and they were towing a six seater pick up truck (your ute?) behind it. They had driven up from Oklahoma to got to the Calgary stampede, were then touring the Rockies, before heading south towards Vancouver, with a plan to be in California in the autumn.

The man was 80.

RED MOJO said...

I love that video! I LOLed at the part about Camrys. So much as I'd like it not to be.

Nick said...

Well I wholeheartedly agree and not just because I'm a sexagenarian. As you say, the accident rate among drunken, reckless youngsters is colossal which is why their insurance rates are so high. I've lost count of the recent media stories about the tragic road deaths of teenagers in the small hours (i.e they were drunk). It's certainly ageism because as you say again, many oldies are very competent, sensible drivers. It's the youngsters who should face the restrictions and re-tests.

Emperor Ropi said...

I wouldn't say that olds are not taking risks and young people do. For example I, myself rarely take risk and if I do then there must be serious problems. However they may be eldery people who may think they are still young and fit so they may do things to prove it which would be impossible for even Superman.

Baino said...

Ian: good point. Mind you wouldn't want to get stuck behind them on a bendy road!

Red: So you have Camry drivers in the the US also? Actually the crash rate for Asian's in Australia is pretty low but they insist on driving slow in the fast lanes and anecdotally are pretty dire when it comes to pedestrian crossings!

Nick; I think we should all face some sort of re-test. Much as it scares the pants off me to contemplate it. The road rules have changed significantly since I was 17 and acquired my license (on the second go I might add)

Ropi: it's true, not all youngsters are careless drivers and I'm glad you are a safe driver but the figures bear out that young men between 17 and 25 are in a very high risk group particularly for speeding. I've yet to see an 80 year old in a souped up subaru playing doof doof music and cutting through traffic at speed!

Thriftcriminal said...

My grandfather managed to drive competently until he died, so to a large extent I am with you. But here we had a driving test amnesty some years back (the number of people waiting for a test got too large so they handed out licenses without a test). So now there are quite a few older people driving about who never did a test. Like my mother in law. I wont get into the car with her. And I don't scare easily.

Baino said...

Thrifty: "handed out licenses without a test" WHAAAAT! Only in Ireland I suspect! Here you have to do a test to get your "L" plates! Another for your Provisional and another to qualify for your 'black' or proper license.

Mother's in law drive deliberately badly to frighten their sons in law. It's the tie that binds us! Now just keep that to yourself.

Ian Poulton said...

Ha, Baino, Thrifty hasn't told you the half of it! One quarter of our drivers are on provisional licenses and most of them drive unaccompanied.

I have a colleague who failed the only test he took, got a full license during the amnesty; moved to Northern Ireland and swapped his full license from here for a full license from there; drives around in an Audi A6 without ever having passed any test.

Anonymous said...

Hhehhehheeee, love the video! There are going to be a lot of older people just giving up driving because of the test. There is still going to be a massive cue to do the test! Only read this week about a backlog of test waiting people. This will really affect my parents, they go travelling in their campervan a lot - are both still great drivers but to be tested every two years ... it will ruin their retirement!

Nick said...

Three separate tests before you get your full licence? Jeez, that's strict. In the UK there's just the one test and that's it, though it was tightened up recently with an extra written test. Yes, the licence situation in the Republic is complete anarchy - and add to that the industrial quantities of alcohol taken. Result: carnage.

Baino said...

Ian: sent you a long email. Explainig what's what!

Anony: I know it doesn't seem fair. My father in law has NEVER had a ding in his whole live. He's just turned 75 and will now have to be tested. He's uber cautious and if visiting us from the central coast always leaves about 5am to avoid traffic. I feel for older driver's in Sydney . . city driving is scareeeeee!

Ian: the new laws (120 hours etc.) come into effect in July but my two had to have 50 hours up their sleeve, log books signed by their 'passenger' and poor Adam still hasn't got his black licence because it costs $175 . .he'd rather spend it on other things. I hear it's not just the republic. You can get your licence in Dublin and it's good in Belfast! Crazy!

Baino said...

Sorry meant Nick