NSW Police head of traffic Assistant Commissioner John Hartley has urged senior citizens to stay off the state’s roads after a spike in the number of seniors killed in traffic accidents.
But Combined Pensioners and Supperannuant Association policy officer Paul Versteege disagrees with the generalised statement that drivers over 70 are all dangerous, telling SBS News the spike in numbers may reflect greater numbers of older drivers on the road.
Mr Versteege said older drivers were already subject to “quite stringent and even draconian measures” which were designed “to drive them off the road, so to speak.”
Drivers over 75 in NSW must already undergo annual medical testing while those still driving over 85 are required to sit licence tests every two years.
This is on top of licence disqualification programs including demerit points and mandatory reporting of medical conditions that can impair driving ability.
Mr Versteege calls says many older Australians rely on being able to drive to maintain their independence.
“People are dependent on their cars, to get groceries, to get to medical services in particular, so more people are compelled people are to get off the road the more isolated they will become and it may lead to early admissions to nursing homes,” he said.
Assistant Commissioner Hartley urged senior drivers to “be aware of your driving skills and your driving ability”.
If that’s starting to diminish you need to go and see your doctor, see a specialist, certainly restrict your driving if you’re not comfortable driving longer distances these days,” he said.
“Chances are if you’re a driver over 70, you’re double the risk of being involved in a fatal crash than others.”
“If you’re right to drive, drive the car. So if you’re working, no doubt you’re probably right to drive, and you have great skills. The fact is people need to review their driving habits, the risk is higher when you’re over 70 on our roads in New South Wales.”