According to statistics from the NSW Centre for Road Safety, there has been a 20 per cent spike in the number of road deaths amongst drivers over 70.
NSW Police Assistant Commissioner and head of traffic, John Hartley, claims that older drivers are two-and-a-half times as likely to be killed in an accident.
He also said that older drivers were likely to have trouble keeping their car centred inside a lane and were more likely to roll through red lights or stop signs, as well as reverse into and over things.
“It is these issues that put older drivers, their passengers, and other road users at great risk,” he told The Daily Telegraph.
“Personal responsibility is the key to keeping us all safe on NSW roads. Don’t wait until you’re involved in a near miss, or a crash, to reconsider your driving ability,” Assistant Commissioner Hartley said.
However, Assistant Commissioner Hartley has since come under fire by seniors groups, who have labelled his comments as “incomprehensible”.
Paul Versteege, policy officer for Combined Pensioners and Superannuants Association, said that Mr Hartley’s comments added more salt to wound for older drivers, who already have “draconian” safety policies enforced on them, through medical and licence eligibility testing.
Mr Versteege claimed that older drivers were more likely to be seriously injured or killed in road accidents “because they become more frail, not because they are worse drivers.”
“It’s not just a simple question of whether they are more dangerous, it comes down to driving ability. It’s incomprehensible that [Assistant Commissioner] Hartley would use the age of 70 as the age where people need to be very cautious. We would argue that any age is an age to be cautious,” he said.
In NSW, drivers over 75 must submit to annual medical testing. NSW is also the only state where drivers over 85 are required to retake licence tests every two years.
Read more at theguardian.com.au
Read more at dailytelegraph.com.au
When we begin talking about high-risk groups on the road, it’s all too easy to fall into stereotyping. Young, old and in between, our society loves to pigeon-hole people into groups of ‘bad drivers’.
Yes, there are statistics that reveal that drivers over 70 account for 22 per cent of road fatalities, and men are more likely than women to be killed or injured in driving accidents. However, we can’t just fall back on the defence that some driving groups are worse than others; this is neither fair nor helpful.
We can’t afford to be precious about hurting the feelings of people who may feel like their driving ability is being unfairly put to question. Mandatory retesting is not about needlessly subjecting people to annoying protocol, it’s about ensuring the safety of Australians on the road and preventing pointless road injuries and fatalities. These preventive measures should be enacted across the board for all Australians, regardless.
I’m in support of mandatory retesting of high-risk groups. It is my belief that medical and licence testing is as important for younger drivers (such as anyone in their first two to three years of driving), as it is for older drivers.
The focus should always be on the individual’s ability to conduct themselves safely and responsibly on the road, both for theirs and everyone else’s safety.
What do you think? Are the Assistant Commissioner’s comments unfair to older drivers? Are you in support of mandatory retesting for all high-risk groups? Have you experienced retesting protocol?