With the rapid growth in population of elderly in Australia, it poses an increased risk on our roads and safety from the lack of driving renewal policies. Seniors (aged 65+) should take mandatory driving tests every five years so that not only they remain up-to-date with the road rules, but also, by implementing this policy, it will enable elderly drivers who drive despite knowing that they are no longer able to drive as safely as they once did, to realise the are creating problems on the road (whether it be due to health and/or aging reasons etc). Applying this compulsory test, will also ensure and result in elderly drivers driving safer on the roads.
With the ongoing development and ever changing road rules and safety, the Australian Road Rules have been reviewed and updated every two years by the National Transport Commission since being established and approved in 1999 (National Transport Commission n.d). These regulations contain the basic knowledge and road rules for each Australian state and territory, and are put in place to keep order and to prevent any road fatalities. However, these updated Road Rules are published online and due to many seniors feeling frustrated (Australian Seniors 2018), threatened and even overwhelmed by the thought of technology, it proves to be one of the main problems as to why the elder population are unable to refresh their minds on the updated road rules. Hence, their potentially threatening driving. According to John Hartley, a New South Wales (NSW) police assistant commissioner and head of traffic officer, older drivers are “two-and-a-half times as likely to be killed in an accident” than anyone else on the road. If there was a mandatory driving test put in place for seniors, this statistic could be reduced.
Due to there being no current policies or tests in place for seniors of the age 65 and above, these drivers rely on themselves when assessing their own capability to drive. This results in a variety of senior drivers who are generally unfit to drive, being on the road, causing an extreme risk to the safety of themselves and other motorists. Elderly drivers generally tend to have higher risk in traffic fatality, due to natural deterioration physically and of senses that allow for safe driving, as well as the vulnerability associated with old age. As humans age, their abilities tend to decrease. Hearing, sight, reaction time and perception are attributes that are vital to safely operating a vehicle, however are slowly lost/delayed when we age. An example of this would be the 86 year old driver from Queensland, Miriam Grace Paton. Miriam was backing out of a shopping centre car park and due to her poor judgement and vision, had not seen Indie, a six year old girl, her eight year old sister nor their mother or grandmother, before backing out. This resulted in the death of Indie, and injuries for Indie’s sister and grandmother. Another example of where an elderly driver has had to assess themselves as being fit to drive when they are not, is on the 27th of December in 2017, Edwin Jessop, 87 at the time, had been driving in the opposite direction to a young motor cyclist and failed to see the approach and turned directly into the motor cyclists path. After further investigation, it was found that Edwin had almost six seconds to see the young boy who had been killed from this accident before it occurred. In South Australia alone, drivers aged form 60-69 were involved in severe injury crashes and were accountale in 55% of those cases. Drivers aged 70-79 were held accountable in 63% of the cases and drivers aged 80+ were responsible in 86% of cases (Government of South Australia, Department of Planning, Transport and Infrastructure 2017).