7 Sep 2011

Govt won't change rules for older drivers

5:45 pm on 7 September 2011

The Government says it will not be changing the rules that govern older drivers.

Road safety commentator Clive Matthew Wilson is calling for tougher measures on older people to retain their licences.

His comments follow the death of two women aged 82 and 81 whose car collided head-on with another vehicle after driving on the wrong side of the Waikato Expressway on Tuesday.

Mr Matthew-Wilson says the crash, along with others in recent years, show clearly there are elderly people no longer able to drive safely.

At present, drivers have to undergo a medical assessment at 75, 80 and every two years after that to determine if they are fit to drive.

The Automobile Association and advocate group Grey Power don't believe changes should be made.

Automobile Association spokesperson Mike Noon believes the process is rigourous enough.

"Old people have every right to their mobility, as do all other drivers on the road. I'm not saying that we should have unsafe drivers on the road, but we should actually be protecting and keeping the mobility of people as long as possible, if we can do that safely."

Transport Minister Steven Joyce says the regime will not be changing as it is working fine. He disagrees with Mr Matthew-Wilson's assessment of older drivers, saying statistics prove they are not a high-risk group.

"The reality is the statistics don't bear out Mr Matthew-Wilson's approach, and in fact the older age groups - particularly drivers 80 plus - have a lower rate of serious accident than their numbers would suggest and are certainly not the major issue on our roads.

"The major issue on our roads continues to be drivers 15 to 19."

Mr Matthew-Wilson says he is not surprised by the Government's stance as the issue is a political hot potato and the elderly have long memories and tend to vote.

Transport Ministry figures show 307 people aged over 60 died on the roads in the past four years - 20% of all road deaths in that time.

Figures show at present, there are 73,000 drivers aged between 80 and 89, almost 5000 aged between 90 and 99, and 12 aged over 100. The oldest driver is 105.