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Older Driver Licensing Review Announced

Tue, 12 Oct 2004

Older Driver Licensing Review Announced

The older driver licensing system which requires people aged 80 and over to renew their licence every two years is to be reviewed.

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The older driver licensing system which requires people aged 80 and over to renew their licence every two years is to be reviewed, Minister for Transport Safety Harry Duynhoven announced today.

Led by the Ministry of Transport, the Review of Older Driver Licensing will be conducted in association with interest groups representing older people - including Grey Power and the NZ Returned Services Association - medical associations and transport organisations. The Ministry of Transport is due to report back to the Minister in June 2005.

The Review will take a long-term look at licensing policy for older people.

The Minister also expressed his support for several changes to the current system which could be introduced next year. These include the option of a conditional licence which would allow older people to drive within a 10km radius of their home.

The proposed amendment to the Driver Licensing Rule will also provide for two other changes: extension of the time allowed for older people to renew their licence from 60 days to six months before its expiry, and removal of the "automatic only" condition. This means, in the future, older people who sit their licence in an automatic transmission vehicle will be able to drive either an automatic or manual vehicle, instead of being limited to an automatic only. It is anticipated that these policy changes will be approved early next year and introduced later in 2005.

"As part of the New Zealand Transport Strategy, the government is committed to improving access and mobility," Mr Duynhoven said. "We realise that for many older people the ability to drive is the key to continued independence - losing their licence can have a profound impact on their lives. At the same time, we have to balance maintaining mobility for older drivers with the need to provide for the safety of all road users."

Grey Power National President Graham Stairmand welcomed the announcement. "Grey Power are pleased the government is taking these positive steps towards removing barriers to mobility for older New Zealanders and we look forward to making a positive contribution to the Review of Older Driver Licensing," he said. "For our members, it's a move in the right direction."

Announcement of the Review and other initiatives was accompanied by the release of two research papers commissioned by the government to help direct the future development of older driver licensing policy.

These are "The Sullivan Report" - an independent review of older driver crash statistics and how they are used by the Land Transport Safety Authority to determine older drivers' safety risk - and a scoping paper "Older People and Transport" by the New Zealand Institute for Research on Ageing (NZiRA). This study examines the transport patterns of older people, the barriers they face in achieving their transport needs and what is being done to address these.

A further study by the NZiRA, "Coping Without a Car", is due for release in November by the Minister for Senior Citizens.

"The research highlights that older driver licensing is an extremely complex issue and one that will be of increasing importance as New Zealand's population ages," said Mr Duynhoven. "There has been a 66% increase in the number of drivers aged 80 and over since 1999, when the current licensing system was introduced.

"Development of licensing policy is an ongoing process influenced by a wide range of evidence including age-related health and medical factors and data on older driver crash risk.

"Older drivers are relatively safe - most drive conservatively, travel shorter distances and tend to be self regulating, giving up their licence when their driving ability slips. However, as a result of ageing and medical conditions, there can be rapid deterioration in an older person's ability to drive safely.

"The research also shows there are few alternative options to driving and this is a challenge for future policy development.

"The government is open to informed debate on the issues surrounding older driver relicensing and to exploring different options for delivering the best system in the future."

Full copies of the research papers "Older People and Transport" and "Older Driver Crash Statistics" (The Sullivan Report) are available on http://www.transport.govt.nz/current/issues/

ENDS

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