The experienced driver: The impact of age on driving


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The experienced driver: The impact of age on driving

We all want to stay independent and mobile as long as possible. For older Australians with significant experience behind the wheel, this includes driving.

However, as we grow older, we become prone to conditions which can impair our ability to drive safely, putting ourselves and other road users at risk.

Clear vision, physical coordination, mental alertness and quick reactions are essential in order to drive safelyi. Understanding the changes that may occur as a result of getting older are important to raise awareness of signs of reduced driving ability.

Impaired visionii

Vision changes are a natural part of ageing, and can significantly affect driving:

Reduced mobility and flexibility as well as physical or mental conditions can decrease a driver's reaction time, which can be fatal on the road.

Slower reaction time

Reduced mobility and flexibility as well as physical or mental conditions can decrease a driver's reaction time, which can be fatal on the road. For instance, when it comes to braking or manoeuvring, fragments of a second can decide life and death, which makes slow reaction times a huge risk factor on the road.

Other medical conditions

Diseases such as Dementia, Multiple Sclerosis, Parkinson's disease, arthritic conditions or heart disease can affect a driver's ability to drive safely. Physical and neurological conditions can impact on strength and body movement, as well as on judgement and decision making while driving, putting the driver and others at a higher risk. Keep in mind that state regulations may require you to report certain illnesses and conditionsiv, and may make additional regular assessments necessaryv.

In some states, drivers over 75 are required to have annual medical examinations to make sure they are fit to drive.

State regulations

Many Australian states have licence regulations in place based on age for older drivers. These regulations may require older drivers - usually after they have turned 75 - to have medical reviews in order to make sure they are fit to drivevi. From the age of 85, additional annual or biannual practical driving assessments become compulsory in several states, including New South Walesvii and Tasmaniaviii. Based on individual health and personal needs, older drivers may receive a modified driving licence, allowing them to drive only short distances or only at certain times of the day, for instance in the case of poor night visionix. For more information, visit your local department of transport Web site.

Stay safe on the road

There are some precautions seniors can take in order to stay safer on the road, such as:

While mandatory medical examinations and driving assessments for older drivers based on age are not required in all states, identifying signs of impaired driving ability early and acting on them in a responsible way can save the lives of both the driver and other road users.


i Vicroads, Medical conditions, http://www.vicroads.vic.gov.au/Home/SafetyAndRules/SaferDrivers/Older+drivers/Medical+conditions/

ii Vicroads, Vision, http://www.vicroads.vic.gov.au/Home/SafetyAndRules/SaferDrivers/Older+drivers/Medical+conditions/Vision.htm

iii Vicroads, Eye diseases, http://www.vicroads.vic.gov.au/Home/SafetyAndRules/SaferDrivers/Older+drivers/Medical+conditions/Eye+diseases.htm

iv Vicroads, What the law says, http://www.vicroads.vic.gov.au/Home/SafetyAndRules/SaferDrivers/FamilyandFriends/Whatthelawsays.htm

v Vicroads, Other medical conditions, http://www.vicroads.vic.gov.au/Home/SafetyAndRules/SaferDrivers/Older+drivers/Medical+conditions/OtherMedicalConditions.htm

vi NSW Government, Transport Roads & Maritime Services, Older drivers, http://www.rms.nsw.gov.au/roads/licence/index.html

vii NSW Government, Transport Roads & Maritime Services, 85 and over, http://www.rms.nsw.gov.au/roads/licence/index.html

viii Tasmanian Government, Department of Infrastructure, Energy and Resources, Senior licence holders, http://www.transport.tas.gov.au/licence_information_folder/senior_licence_holders

ix NSW Government, Transport Roads & Maritime Services, Options for older drivers, http://www.rms.nsw.gov.au/roads/licence/index.html

x Transport Accident Commission, Staying Safe on the Road, http://www.tacsafety.com.au/older-drivers/tips-for-staying-safe-on-the-road