Life Matters,  Retirement

The Reckless Driver

It seems to me that the reckless driver is 75 years or older. At least that is what it must feel like once you turn 75 years old. Then comes the yearly medical review to find out whether you are fit to drive or not. In South Australia, it is 70 years and if that was the case I would only be a few years away from having my driving ability assessed. Living in Queensland means I have a few more years to enjoy driving around the countryside without telling myself I am an older and potentially reckless driver!

My “One&Only” (O&O) is at the stage of his life where he has the yearly medical review. It is quite stressful particularly when medical practitioners do not understand their role in the review. Many doctors think that the medical review is a medical condition! My O&O had the problem when we lived in Maleny and now in Toowoomba. He has even filled out the form for the doctor (in part) to help the process. His doctor last week was very uncomfortable with O&O telling him that the medical review is not a medical condition. When in Maleny due to the misunderstanding of what the licensing requirements were for drivers aged 75 years and over I ended up phoning the Department of Transport and Main Roads. We were correct in our interpretation. The yearly medical assessment is not a medical condition.

The information sheet available from the department is very clear. Currently, drivers aged 75 years and older have to carry a valid medical certificate every time they drive. A doctor assesses and determines whether a person is medically fit to drive. As the information states “Being certified as medically fit to drive is mandatory regardless of whether of not you have a medical condition”. The medical review, is not a medical condition – comprendes?

Older drivers are only one driving cohort. There is merit in monitoring driving ability across the age range of all drivers. The younger cohort 17-24 years are over-represented in road crash fatalities in Queensland compared to their proportion of the population. In the younger cohort (17-24 years) transport injuries account for 66% of all deaths. Looking at car crashes and fatalities in Queensland by age and gender. The age group that is most at risk are the 25-59 years.

In the past week, you may have heard about the potentially life threatening airbags. The ones in our cars that are meant to protect us. Many cars have the Takata airbags. These are found in a range of car brands, different models, trucks and motorcycles. Check here to see if your vehicle is subject to a recall.

Driving safely is our responsibility, but we rely on car manufacturers to do the right thing and sell us a vehicle that is 100% road worthy. If you have children or grandchild who is about to drive or wanting to buy an older car, make sure that the road worthy checks meet State Government transport guidelines.

Far gone are the days when I carried precious cargo, my baby, only weeks old, in the back seat of my VW in a wicker basket, unrestrained. We all know that many lives are saved because of stricter road and driving rules. But let’s not go overboard and over-regulate!

When I reach 75 or 85 years old I could join a sailing club. Are there any restrictions on age for sailing?
Sailing across the waters must be so relaxing. Even better than driving on the road.

Some older people are upset about government regulation that require a driving assessment. Is this age discrimination? Shirley from New South Wales (NSW) had to take a driving test when she turned 85 years old. It is mandatory in NSW to have the test at 85 years and every two years after that. NSW and Illinois in the USA are the only two jurisdictions that require older drivers to do a test. If you take a look at the statistics in the Sydney Morning Herald article it shows a higher percentage of older drivers involved in car crashes. The source is not well documented in the newspaper and I could not find the primary source from the information they provided. Therefore, I cannot rely on the statistics in this article, although the story about Shirley is worth a read!

Shirley believes that the bi-yearly driving test, once you reach 85 years, is age discrimination. The NSW Combined Pensioners and Superannuants Association says the test is discriminating against older drivers. I believe it is age discrimination and I don’t look forward to the time when I will have to be medically assessed in order to hold a driver’s license. From being an independent driver to being dependent on others is a change though we must prepare for as we age. Maybe, in the years ahead governments can open off-road race tracks so that the older generation, all those baby boomers, can have a some fun, tearing around the race track with all the safety gear on and remembering the “good old days”! The reckless driver finally able to cut loose! Or maybe, I will just go sailing.

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