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Published: 2000-11-08 00:00:00

Older drivers are facing a growing number of problems in keeping their licenses or giving them up with dignity, according to a report to Environment Waikato’s Regional Road Safety Subcommittee.

Private Road Users representative Geoff Hyde told this week’s meeting that an ageing population had highlighted a growing problem with older drivers. Drivers over 60 were now becoming road casualties in greater numbers than the 15-24 year old driver that road safety campaigns were aimed at. In the Waikato 65 older drivers over 60 were killed compared with 58 in the 15-24 age group last year.

Not enough emphasis was placed on retraining older drivers or dealing with their different needs, he said. Older drivers faced changes in visual ability and reaction times which needed to be faced. The Bay of Plenty had produced a publication for older drivers and discussions were being held with driver training organisations.

Older drivers needed a road environment that aided decision making, and councils needed to note distractions, size and placement of signs and pedestrian facilities in each area to make it easier for older drivers to cope, he said.

They needed better protection in a crash, and a basic knowledge of how age affected their driving ability. Elderly couples needed to ensure both were able to drive. Women often had not driven for a long time if the men insisted on always driving in retirement, and were severely disadvantaged and lacked driving experience if their husbands died first.

Retraining could be effective and driver education courses were needed. Licensing processes needed to facilitate a dignified exit from driving for elderly drivers who were no longer capable of being safe on the road.

More publicity of the issues facing older drivers needed to be made through Rotary, Probus and other organisations, he said.

Members of the Committee said ideas such as subsidised taxi services for elderly who had surrendered their licences, a partial licence which gradually took older drivers out of long distance or night driving, or encouraging a sense of qualifying for a new form of transport rather than losing the right to drive should be considered.

Environment Waikato staff have been asked to investigate the issues facing older drivers and suggestions to assist.