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Review of Older Driver Licensing Policy Q&As

Review of Older Driver Licensing Policy – Questions and Answers

What has the government decided about older driver licensing?

A proposal for change to the current older driver licensing regime has been identified by a Stakeholder Consultative Group as part of the Review of Older Driver Licensing Policy. The Stakeholder Consultative Group (SCG), working with the Ministry of Transport, has been meeting for the past six months and has identified 5 possible options for a future licensing regime for older drivers.

The Stakeholder Consultative Group representation is:

Age Concern New Zealand Alzheimer’s Society Association of Road Safety Co-ordinators of New Zealand Bus and Coach Association (NZ) Inc Grey Power New Zealand Federation Insurance Council of New Zealand Inc New Zealand Association of Gerontology New Zealand Association of Occupational Therapists New Zealand Association of Optometrists (Inc) New Zealand Automobile Association Inc New Zealand Geriatrics Society Royal NZ College of General Practitioners Royal New Zealand Returned and Services Association

In addition, the following organisations have contributed to the work of the Stakeholder Consultative Group:

Cycle Advocates Network Living Streets Aotearoa New Zealand Institute for Research on Ageing New Zealand Taxi Federation Inc Road Transport Forum New Zealand Inc

In a preliminary report, the SCG has indicated near-unanimous support for a preferred option with the following elements:

No mandatory age-based on-road test; Retain the current medical fitness to drive certificate requirement at age 75, 80 and two-yearly thereafter; The possibility of an optional on-road test in certain circumstances; Medical practitioners to make greater use of a range of conditional/restricted licence options; and Increased provision of educational materials.

Government has indicated that it supports an older driver licensing regime based on this framework. There is considerable further work to do by the SCG, the Ministry of Transport, and Land Transport New Zealand on the detail of the proposed new licensing regime. Costings and implementation planning also need to be carried out.

When will all this happen?

The final report and recommendations of the Stakeholder Consultative Group are due in June 2005. Following that the government will announce the timeframe for making the changes.

What about the government’s announcement last year about the conditional licence and the ‘automatic only’ Rule?

The proposal arising from the Review of Older Driver Licensing Policy is looking at longer-term changes. In the meantime, government is proposing several changes to make the current older driver licensing system fairer and more user-friendly.

There are two proposals of particular interest to older drivers under the upcoming Driver Licence Amendment Rule. It is expected that these Rule changes will be signed and put into place early in 2006.

One of these proposals is the creation of a new ‘conditional’ older driver licence, Rule. When the Rule is introduced older drivers will have the choice of either obtaining a full licence or opting for a conditional licence (with a slightly easier on-road test). This will cater for those older drivers who only want a local licence for driving to and from the shops, the doctor and around their local area. Where an older person needs to travel out of their local area on a regular basis they would seek a full licence, which will continue to give them the right to drive wherever they need to without limit.

The Driver Licence Amendment Rule will also remove the 'automatic only' condition for older drivers. Currently, when an older driver (80+) takes their on-road test in a vehicle with an automatic transmission, their licence restricts them to driving automatic vehicles only. The new Rule will permit older drivers to drive either an automatic or a manual vehicle.

What educational initiatives are planned for the new regime?

The SCG looked at a number of educational initiatives, including several used in the United States and Australia. While further work is required to identify and develop these initiatives, the SCG would like to see a much wider availability of the free ‘Safe with Age’ course to enable it to reach a much larger number of older drivers. ‘Safe with Age’ is a very popular classroom-based four-hour course aimed at improving the knowledge, confidence and safety of older drivers.

Other information and educational initiatives supported by the SCG include: The Positive Guide for Mature Road Users, produced by Land Transport New Zealand; a ‘retiring from driving’ booklet (currently being developed in Kapiti); older driver self-assessment checklists; expanded older driver handbooks (modelled on those in the ACT, Victoria and the United States); and educational materials for families and the medical sector.

What about safety?

Older drivers are generally a safe group. Most older persons drive conservatively, self-regulate their driving, and are responsible for a small portion (about 2%) of road casualties. Currently, about 96% of the 27,000 older drivers who take the on-road older drive test each year pass after one or more attempts. Their first-time pass rate of 80.4% is better than that of novice/younger/learner drivers.

Most overseas jurisdictions have no age-based on-road testing of older drivers. Overall, their crash statistics for older drivers are no better or worse than ours.

Since the introduction of the New Zealand Transport Strategy, government is required to balance the objective of improving safety and security with increasing access and mobility. This is also an important aim of the NZ Positive Ageing Strategy. It is hoped that proposed changes to older driver licensing will lead to older persons maintaining their independence and mobility for as long as possible.

Will the public be able to have their say on this issue?

The stakeholder groups involved in the Review of Older Driver Licensing Policy represent a wide range of key interest groups in the community. Those who belong to groups that have representation on the SCG can provide input through their representatives.

Following the final report, and before implementing any new regime, the Rule change process will be required. This process includes opportunity for public consultation.

If I want to know more, who can I contact?

For further information contact:

General enquiries: Visit the Ministry of Transport’s web site http://www.transport.govt.nz/current/issues or email info@transport.govt.nz

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