Medical tests for older drivers to cease

24 December 2013

South Australian drivers over 70 years of age will no longer be required to have mandatory driver's licence medical testing each year for their car licence.

Minister for Health and Ageing, Jack Snelling, said removing the mandatory testing age is a key part of South Australia’s Ageing Plan, which aims to support our older residents be more active and engaged in the community.

“Compared to other states and territories across Australia, South Australia has the youngest age for a mandatory medical check, despite having the oldest mainland population,” Mr Snelling said.

“While some jurisdictions have compulsory medical testing for drivers at 75 and 80 years of age, there are some who do not have aged-based testing at all and that is what South Australia will move to from 1 September, 2014.

“Age-based testing has not been demonstrated to reduce crash rates for older drivers.

“For instance research has shown that in Victoria, which does not have age-based testing, the crash rate per head of population was very similar to South Australia and New South Wales,and lower than the crash rate in all other states.”

“Age-based testing has however been found to prompt some older drivers to cease driving, which in turn reduces their social interaction and engagement in the community.”

Mr Snelling said at the last Census, there were more than 180,000 South Australians aged 70 years and over, the majority of who live independently and are active in the community.

“South Australia has a growing number of older people, with 35 per cent of South Australians
aged over 50,” he said.

“People are living longer and fuller lives and we need to have more relevant policies that do not discriminate by age and support our older population.”

The current policy states that from 70 years of age, all car drivers must visit a medical practitioner every year and pass a medical and eyesight examination to maintain their licence.

Ensuring the safety of the public is paramount and this change will not impact on the current licence requirements for people with medical conditions and disabilities.

Health practitioners will also still be required to notify the Registrar of Motor Vehicles anytime they consider a driver or a driver’s licence applicant is temporarily or permanently unfit to drive regardless of age.

Under the current law, drivers themselves are also required to notify the Registrar if they have any physical or mental illness, disability or deficiency that might endanger the public or themselves if they were to drive, again regardless of age.

Mr Snelling said a working group would now be established involving key interested parties and chaired by retired District Court Judge Alan Moss to see what could be implemented instead of aged-based testing to ensure road safety is unaffected by these changes.

“This will also involve detailed discussions with the AMA about current compliance of medical practitioners to report to the Registrar anyone they think may be temporarily or permanently unfit to drive,” he said.

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