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Review of Older Persons Driver Licensing Policy

13 April 2005

Review of Older Persons Driver Licensing Policy

The New Zealand Association of Occupational Therapists (NZAOT) wishes to comment on the announcement by Prime Minister Helen Clark regarding the intention to abolish the mandatory requirement for age-based driving tests for people aged eighty years and over, and the subsequent concerns being expressed by doctors.

The anxiety being expressed by various medical practitioner groups regarding the limitations of a medical examination to determine whether people can safely drive a motor vehicle is justified.

The consultative group has yet to produce a final recommendation and the concerns expressed may well be addressed in the final report.

However, currently when a decision on a persons’ safety to drive is in question; a doctor/general practitioner has the option of referring for an in depth specialist assessment from an accredited specialist driving assessor who is an occupational therapist.

The purpose of this assessment is to make recommendations about safety to drive. Assessments usually begin with an off-road component which checks that a person’s physical, thinking and decision making abilities are up to the standard required for safe driving.

The impact of disability, illness or aging can be further assessed in the on-road assessment. Along with a driving instructor, the specialist driving assessor will examine driving skills in a range of driving situations.

The results of both the off-road and the on-road assessment give a good indication of a person’s ability to drive safely. This information can support a doctor/general practitioner in the decision making as regards a person’s safety to drive and in particular provide objective information on cognitive abilities.

The New Zealand Association of Occupation Therapists does not advocate a standard older persons driving on-road test as an appropriate tool to assist in determining medical fitness to drive. A licensed Testing Officer does not have the training or the skills to match impairments in thinking and decision making with on-road driving behaviours.

When a Testing Officer undertakes an Older Person’s Driving test this is on the understanding that the person is “medically fit” to proceed and not because the Doctor is worried about an individual’s ability to drive.

The information provided by Land Transport NZ does indicate that the numbers of people who will have problems are small being around four per cent of the 27,000 people currently undergoing an Older Person’s Driving test.

Reference: ‘So your doctor has referred you for a medical driving assessment’ –

The New Zealand Association of Occupational Therapists Inc. (NZAOT) represents over 950 occupational therapists, and students of occupational therapy.

Mission: ‘Members are assured of excellence in knowledge, standards, support and representation’.

“Occupational therapy is a profession that enables people to lead a meaningful and satisfying lives through participation in occupation” Definition of Occupational Therapy – NZAOT (2002)


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