By Karen Sweeney
(Australian Associated Press)
Older drivers who face “draconian” medical and licence testing have rejected a senior NSW Police officer’s suggestion that people over 70 should reconsider their driving abilities.
NSW Police head of traffic Assistant Commissioner John Hartley suggested on Wednesday that older drivers consider their ability to drive long distances, in traffic and in certain weather conditions.
But Mr Hartley drew ire when his comments were misconstrued as a suggestion those aged over 70 should not drive at all.
Mr Hartley told AAP his suggestion about drivers knowing their abilities was something drivers of all ages should consider.
“I never said people over 70 should be driving or that they should get off the road,” he said.
He said his comments focused on that age group because people over 70 are involved in 18 per cent of the state’s car accidents but only make up 10 per cent of the population.
“The risk is there in the over 70 age group so those people should be aware of their driving skills and make sure that they’re aware of their abilities,” he said.
“Everybody has a right to drive when safe and capable and have a licence.”
The NRMA said it was misguided to blame older drivers for the road toll.
“It is not feasible to take the privilege of personal mobility away from a growing proportion of the population,” NRMA president Kyle Loades said.
Combined Pensioners and Superannuants Association policy officer Paul Versteege said drivers of all ages need to take care.
“It’s not just a simple question of whether they are more dangerous, it comes down to driving ability,” he told AAP on Wednesday.
“We would argue that any age is an age to be cautious.”
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.
“It’s an over-the-top triple whammy of (demerit) points, obligations to notify and then the older driver testing … it’s a draconian regime,” he said.