Australia is a large country, and most of us rely on our cars to get where we need to go. Having a driver’s licence is key to the independence that many of us enjoy. However, spending time behind the wheel comes with increased risks as we age. The effects of ageing can have a marked impact on your ability to drive safely, which is why each Australian state has introduced laws that govern whether elderly drivers are too old to remain on the road. This blog will address the issues encountered by ageing drivers and the obligations of elderly drivers in each Australian state.
How Ageing Affects Driving
Ageing is a natural part of life. While it can be an inconvenience to give up the independence of driving, older drivers should be mindful of whether their age affects their skill behind the wheel. Many normal changes associated with ageing can impact driving ability, including reduced vision, hearing and flexibility. Additionally, our bodies become more frail and prone to injury. These combined factors lead to the research, which shows that drivers aged 70 and up are overrepresented in road fatalities. Despite making up just 13% of the driving population, people over 70 account for 23% of all road fatalities and 13% of serious injuries. While older drivers understand their limits and are involved in fewer accidents, those crashes are usually of greater severity.
Do Medications Affect Driving?
Although simple ageing can affect driving, some medications are also known to impair driving ability and put road users at risk. Older Australians tend to take more medications because they often have more than one chronic disorder, such as diabetes, high blood pressure or arthritis. Among older adults, 90% regularly take at least 1 prescription drug, 80% take at least 2, and 36% take 5 or more medications.
In most cases, these medications allow older Australians to live longer, more comfortable lives. But, some common medications may also have an adverse effect on driving ability. Drugs that impair driving ability include:
- Sleeping pills
- Opioid painkillers
- Blood pressure and nausea medicines
- Antidepressants (often used to treat bladder problems or recurring pain)
When is Too Old to Drive?
All Australian states have now introduced different controls to closely encourage older drivers to monitor their health and driving ability. Depending on where you live, the rules vary:
- In Queensland, drivers aged 75 and over must carry a valid medical certificate that demonstrates their fitness to drive. Certificates are issued by doctors and are valid for 13 months.
- In New South Wales, drivers aged 75 and over require an annual medical assessment. Drivers aged 85 and over must pass a practical exam every 2 years to keep an unrestricted licence.
- In Victoria, there is no requirement for senior drivers to undergo a medical assessment. If a driver develops a medical condition, they may need a medical review to continue driving.
- In the ACT, drivers aged 75 and over need an annual medical assessment.
- In South Australia, drivers aged 75 and over must fill out annual self-assessment Medical Fitness to Drive forms. Drivers must consult their doctor if they answer yes to any of the questions on the form.
- In Western Australia, drivers aged 80 and over must undergo an annual medical assessment to renew their licence. If their doctor recommends it, the driver may need to pass a practical driving exam.
- In Tasmania and Northern Territory, there is no age limit for driving or medical fitness exams. Instead, all drivers are legally obligated to report medical conditions that affect their driving ability.
Have You Been Involved in a Car Accident? Speak to Your Local Revolution Law Team Today
Whether you are a young driver just getting started or an older Australian still enjoying Brisbane’s roads, it is essential to seek professional advice if you are involved in a car accident. If you have been in a collision on our roads, your local Revolution Law lawyer can provide the support and advice you need.
Your lawyer will review the details of the incident and ensure that it is correctly reported to authorities and insurance companies. This will help avoid unnecessary complications down the track, so you can recover, get back on the road sooner and get on with your life!
Revolution Lawyers can also help you lodge and navigate the process of making a motor vehicle claim. Feel free to get in touch with your local Revolution Lawyer at any time for a chat about your claim. Call, email, or the team can come to you.