Older drivers, car accident claims and driver’s licence tests

The driving skills of older drivers have come under scrutiny following an increase in road deaths and car accident claims involving people over the age of 70.

Older driver licence laws in review after increase in car accident fatalities

The NSW parliamentary committee for road safety recently launched an inquiry considering changes to the laws, ensuring that older drivers are fit enough to keep their driver’s licence.

The review will look at driver training for all ages with the aim of helping to reduce the state’s road toll in car accidents.

Recent figures released by the Centre for Road Safety reveal that the age group with the highest number of road deaths in the past year are people over the age of 70.

The Committee is accepting submissions relating to the inquiry from interested parties until 20 February 2017.

How does the current system work for older drivers?

In NSW, the older driver licence scheme varies depending upon age:

  • Between 70 and 74: there are no special requirements for drivers in this age bracket, apart from holders of an MC licence (multi-combination licence). MC licence holders will need to pass an annual practical driving test.
  • Between 75 and 79: drivers in this age range need to pass an annual medical review to keep their licence.
  • Between 80 and 84: drivers in this group also need to pass an annual medical review to keep their licence. Additionally, those who hold a heavy vehicle licence (classes LR, MR, HR or HC) need to pass an annual practical driving assessment.
  • 85 and older: Drivers in this range need to pass a medical review each year and pass a practical driving assessment every two years. Alternatively, they may apply for a modified licence.

What is a modified licence?

A modified licence allows drivers to continue to drive under certain conditions, without needing to pass a practical driving assessment. The types of conditions for the modified licence may include limiting them to driving within a certain distance from their home, or at defined times during the day.

Balancing independence and road safety

The laws regulating licences for older drivers seek to balance keeping people safe on the one hand, and respecting the rights of older drivers to maintain their licence on the other.

Any review of the law will look to maintain this balance but also address advances in car technology. The introduction of semi-autonomous and fully driverless cars could change our driving future, potentially improve the independence of people unable to drive, and possibly make the need for these rules unnecessary.

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