Nearly half of all senior drivers referred by doctors for
on-road competency tests this year have failed, Transport
Ministry figures reveal.
Nationally, there are more than 5000 licensed drivers in
their 90s on New Zealand roads, and 11 aged over 100.
Our oldest licensed motorist is from Northland - aged an
But with some aged motorists' driving ability failing, many
present a danger to other motorists on the road.
This year, nearly 700 drivers aged 74 and older have
undergone on-road safety tests after referrals from a doctor,
with a 54 per cent pass rate.
Those who fail can have their license revoked.
Rotorua's top roading police officer Inspector Kevin Taylor
called on families to help prevent more tragic crashes
involving pensioner relatives.
Senior drivers had caused several fatal and serious injury
crashes in the Bay of Plenty this year, he said. The
tragedies were the result of inattention, confusion or lack
In a bid to prevent more deaths, police planned to remove
older drivers from the road if they were a "disaster waiting
"It's a fairly major move," he said. "You're not just taking
away someone's licence, in a lot of cases you are removing
their freedom of movement and severely impacting on their
Targeting dangerous older drivers was one of the 14 road
policing priority areas, Mr Taylor said. But he did not put
senior drivers in the same risk category as alcohol, drugs,
young drivers, lack of seatbelts or motorcycling.
Automobile Association spokesman Mike Noon said it was
desirable to keep older motorists driving as long as they
could do so safely.
"The loss of mobility, the loss of the freedom for older
drivers is really significant."
Currently, drivers must renew their licence at age 75, 80,
and every two years after that.
To do so, they must obtain a medical certificate from their
GP following a health and vision check.
After the health check, drivers are classified into one of
* Medically fit to drive without restrictions;
* Medically fit to drive with conditions;
* Medically fit to drive subject to passing an on-road safety
* Medically fit to drive subject to confirmation by a
* Not fit to drive - in which case the driver's license
expires on their next birthday.
Mr Noon said typical conditions imposed included only driving
within a certain distance of their home, or between certain
hours - to keep senior drivers away from heavy traffic.
Many voluntarily stopped driving at night as lights became
dazzling. They also avoided driving in heavy traffic, or
around schools during drop-off and pick up times, Mr Noon
"They just use their vehicle in their immediate area - going
to church, visiting friends, going to the supermarket."
Generally, older drivers were more conservative.
"They're not speeding, they're not doing anything outrageous
on the road."
Transport Ministry figures show 18 drivers aged over 75 have
been killed in crashes this year - three more than during the
whole of 2011.
In the first 6 months of 2012, there were 12 fatal, 49
serious, and 241 minor injury crashes involving senior
Tauranga Age Concern chairwoman Angela Scott said the fact
older divers were referred for competency tests indicated
likely problems with their driving ability.
"For a doctor to make that call is a very sensible choice
because it means older people and other drivers remain safe
on the road.
"I think it's good to have a qualified person to help an
older driver make the decision whether they're fit to drive
Senior licensed drivers by age group:
* 75-79: 82,891
* 80-89: 76,011
* 90-99: 5617
* Over 100: 11
* 18 older drivers killed to date this year.
* 15 older drivers killed in 2011.
* 12 fatal, 49 serious, and 241 minor injury crashes
involving drivers aged 75 or older in the first 6 months of
* 19 fatal, 93 serious, and 455 minor injury crashes
involving driver aged 75 or older in 2011.
* 164,530 current licence holders aged 75 and above. 84,890
are male, and 79,639 female.
Source: Ministry of Transport, NZ Transport Agency.
- By Brendan Manning of APNZ