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The Senior License Test: Is Grandad’s Driving Impaired by His Age?

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The Senior License Test: Is Grandad’s Driving Impaired by His Age?

Driving is the ultimate symbol of freedom to many. We can go wherever we want with the turn of a key.

But as we enter the golden years of retirement and beyond, we’re faced with the possibility that some impairment may occur as a natural result of ageing or health decline.

Unfortunately, this can have a hazardous impact on the safety of an older driver and others on the road.

For these reasons, Australia has special requirements to maintain a driver’s licence, which senior drivers must adhere to, including a driving test.

But what happens in the event that a loved one passes the test yet, from what you’ve witnessed, isn’t fit to operate a vehicle?

Licensing requirements for older drivers begin at age 75, when they’ll need to have a medical exam each year going forward to maintain a driver’s licence.

Requirements for Licensing

The licensing regulations for seniors are age-dependent but include the option of switching to a modified license at any age.

Medical Exam at 75

Licensing requirements for older drivers begin at age 75, when they’ll need to have a medical exam each year going forward to maintain a driver’s licence.

Following guidelines provided by Australia’s Roads and Maritime Services (RMS), your loved one’s doctor will determine whether he is medically fit to drive. The physician will then send the evaluation to RMS, who will get back to the driver with the results and next steps. Please note that these rules may vary state by state.

Senior woman driving

Medical Exam & Driver’s Test at 85

When senior drivers reach 85 years of age, Australia requires them to pass a driver’s test in addition to the yearly medical exam. This is known as the ‘practical assessment.’

Any high-risk behaviours like driving through a stop sign or speeding, these are considered ‘fail items’ and he will not pass the test

An RMS-certified instructor will evaluate your loved one on how well he demonstrates an understanding of road rules, control over the vehicle and suitable decision-making while driving. The test involves 15-20 minutes on the road with the RMS instructor, who will base your favourite senior’s results on how well and how safely he drives, in a number of situations.

If your dear senior displays any high-risk behaviours like driving through a stop sign or speeding, these are considered ‘fail items’ and he will not pass the test.

However, older drivers may take this test up to three times during a specified period, before a decision is made whether they can retain an unrestricted driver’s licence. Please note that these rules may vary state by state.

Modified Licence

If the senior you care about does not wish to take the practical assessment (driver’s test), Australia does offer the option of switching to a modified licence.

Based on your love one’s weekly driving needs, a modified licence allows him to drive locally, where he’s accustomed to the traffic conditions and surroundings.

Card 2a

Not Fit to Drive?

Whatever your loved one’s licence or driver’s test outcome may be, it’s possible he may still exhibit consistent, unsafe driving behaviour, leaving you convinced he shouldn’t be driving at all.

Perhaps it’s impairment that comes with ageing or health issues. If you see warning signs like demonstrated difficulty with the basics of driving, you may need to broach the issue.

Maybe your dear elder is making sudden lane changes or braking and accelerating, inexplicably. Maybe you’ve seen an increase in near-accidents or citations, lately. Dents and scrapes on the car or elsewhere can also be red flags.

David Solie, geriatric psychologist and author of “How to Say It to Seniors,” recommends giving your dear elder the opportunity to reflect on his situation in-between four short conversations.

Whatever the case, if you have reason to believe your older compadre shouldn’t be behind the wheel, now is the time to address your concerns for the safety of him and others on the road.

Before You Talk…

Before speaking to your loved one about hanging up the keys, try to understand what emotions and everyday problems the loss of driving privileges could bring. Elizabeth Dugan, geriatric researcher and author of “The Driving Dilemma,” says one of her colleagues refrained from driving for two weeks before having the safety discussion with her father, a senior.

By doing so, you too can experience and understand the difficulty no wheels could have on your family member and his sense of independence.

Once you’re ready to address the issue, do it gradually. David Solie, geriatric psychologist and author of “How to Say It to Seniors,” recommends giving your dear elder the opportunity to reflect on his situation in-between four short conversations.

Card 2b

Conversation #1: Bring up the obvious signs of his driving difficulty, but choose your words carefully, says Solie. “It’s important to have some guiding values.

Discuss the medical implications of getting older that could impact sound driving.

Start by saying, ‘I’ve always told you the truth, even when it’s difficult.’” Then, you can explain what you’ve observed, whether puzzling citations, dents or small collisions.

Be understanding. Your favourite senior might already know he has an issue, and subtly come clean.

Conversation #2: Emphasise the critical nature of his problem by offering facts or statistics as proof.

For example, a study by the Centre for Accident Research and Road Safety found that in Queensland alone, accidents involving older drivers were more inclined to be grave, and happen in speed areas less than 100 km per hour. (Alcohol, fatigue and speed weren’t likely to be factors.)

Conversation #3: Discuss the medical implications of getting older that could impact sound driving. These can include unfavourable side effects of medications, less muscle and more joint pain, making it difficult to work controls or turn from side to side, or impaired vision and hearing.

Active senior woman - grandmother driving car, detail

Conversation #4: Assist your loved one in putting together a plan to help him get around without a car. Alternate modes of transportation can include public transport, offering to drive him to a favourite activity once a week, hiring drivers from a senior home care agency and carpooling with friends.

“You’re not saying, ‘Give me the keys,'” concludes Dugan, “but ‘I care for you and I want you to be as healthy, mobile and independent as possible. If you can’t drive, then we’ll work together to figure out something else.’”

Keep the Car Insured

Be sure to keep the comprehensive car insurance policy on the car renewed each year. For a competitive price on car insurance, make sure you get a quote with Budget Direct.

 

Sources

http://www.rms.nsw.gov.au/documents/roads/licence/older-drivers-guide.pdf
http://www.helpguide.org/articles/aging-well/age-and-driving-safety-tips.htm#warning
https://www.caring.com/articles/when-should-seniors-stop-driving
http://www.lifelinesys.com/content/blog/caregivers/work-life-balance/a-hard-decision-having-the-stop-driving-talk-with-elderly-drivers
http://www.nextavenue.org/when-its-ok-not-tell-truth-elderly-parents/
http://www.smh.com.au/national/elderly-drivers-as-dangerous-as-young-hoons-says-geriatrician-20150503-1myys4.html
https://www.vicroads.vic.gov.au/safety-and-road-rules/driver-safety/older-drivers/the-ageing-driver
https://www.libertymutual.com/safe-and-smart-living/blog-posts/talking-to-seniors-about-driving