While the news headlines often send the message that older drivers are dangerous, the research doesn’t support this theory.
UQ Aging Mind Initiative co-director and clinical neuropsychologist Dr Nancy Pachana, who specialises in elder driving safety, said decades of driving research had found that older drivers were just as safe as younger adults on the roads.
“If older drivers are in good health then there is no reason why they should not drive up to and well beyond age 70,” Dr Pachana said.
“Their greater years of driving experience on the roads actually makes them less likely to be in an accident.”
Queensland Brain Institute researcher Dr Jaqueline Liddle, who researches the impact of retirement from driving, said age was not a good indicator of skill.
“Driving performance is more related to health rather than age, so there can be safe drivers at any age,” Dr Liddle said.
In Queensland, if you are 75 or older, or you have a medical condition affecting your ability to drive, you must obtain a medical certificate from your doctor in order to continue driving. Once you turn 75 you will need to download and print the Medical certificate for motor vehicle driver form and get your doctor to sign it. Medical certificates are valid for 13-months, so you will need to revisit your doctor each year for a medical assessment to determine if you are still fit to drive.
An ‘M’ will be shown on your licence as a condition and you must carry the medical certificate at all times when driving. If you don’t have the certificate on you and the police request it, you could face a fine.
Your doctor can suggest limitations or conditions to be placed on the driver’s licence. They may also suggest that a formal driving assessment be carried out to test your ability to drive safely.
If your doctor needs further information to make an assessment they may require you to see a specialist or undertake a driving assessment to assess your fitness to drive. If this happens you may not be able to drive until the assessment is finalised.
Unfortunately, this can cause stress and expense for older drivers, who might feel like it’s easier to hang up their keys instead.
Seasons Bribie Island resident, Pam Board recently had her license cancelled following a small accident in a local carpark. However, the 81-year-old wasn’t quite ready to give up her license without a fight.
“The girl who looks after the gym at the physio put in a letter to my doctor following the accident. The doctor came and saw me but nobody would give me a letter to tell me what was in the original complaint and I eventually got a letter from the transport department saying my licence was cancelled unless I had a driving assessment,” says Pam.
“It was going to cost me $590 dollars to get an assessment done. I had to do a test on an iPad, which I had difficulty with because I’m not used to iPads and they then brought down a dual controlled car and I had to do a driving test.”
Fortunately for Pam, she passed the test with flying colours and was approved for a five-year licence.
“They said there’s absolutely nothing the matter with your driving! They were more than satisfied.”
With no set age for handing in your licence, Queensland Transport relies on the older drivers themselves to assess their driving skills and to be aware of early warning signs that their driving may be suffering.
The RACQ self-assessment questionnaire is a good way to assess your fitness to drive. You can then discuss your results with your doctor during your yearly medical assessment.