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Govt finalises changes to older driver licensing

19 December 2005

Govt finalises changes to older driver licensing system

Prime Minister Helen Clark and Minister for Transport Safety Harry Duynhoven announced today that the mandatory requirement for driving tests for people 80 and over will end in December 2006.

Helen Clark announced in April that the Labour-led government would move to abolish age-based driving tests.

The Cabinet has now approved several changes aimed at making the older driver licensing system fairer and more user-friendly, Helen Clark said.

The key changes are:

- The mandatory age-based on-road test for people aged 80 and over will cease from December 2006

- An extra $500,000 will be provided annually to expand the Safe with Age classroom road safety courses, with the aim of reaching about 8,000 drivers a year over the next three years

- From 1 July 2007 the government will provide a 50 per cent subsidy to Safe with Age graduates who want to further improve their driving skills by a taking a private on-road lesson

- New education and information packages for older drivers and their families will be available before December 2006, including packages for GPs and health practitioners who are advising older drivers.

A Medical Certificate for Driver Licence, indicating fitness to drive, will be required for drivers to re-license at 75, 80 and at two-yearly intervals thereafter.

Doctors will retain the ability to refer patients for specialist assessments. A new option will allow GPs to refer patients 75 and over for an on-road driving test in some circumstances, such as when there are doubts about a driver’s ability to drive safely.

Harry Duynhoven said age-based driving tests could not cease before December 2006 because of the processes – including mandatory public consultation – around introducing the new Driver Licence Amendment Rule.

“Following the signing and gazetting of the Rule, Land Transport New Zealand has to make a number of significant system changes to set up the new Older Driver Licensing system,” Mr Duynhoven said

“In addition to system changes, there is a need to assemble and distribute education and information packages for older drivers and their families, and for GPs.”

Helen Clark said the new system is balanced between the real need of older drivers to keep their mobility and access to their social networks, and safeguards for driver and public safety.

“The evidence clearly showed little reason for keeping a system which older drivers representatives have told us is costly, stressful and unfair.

“New Zealand is one of very few countries that requires drivers 80 and over to take a mandatory on-road driving test. The United Kingdom, Western Europe, and most Australian and US states have no age-based on-road testing of older drivers. Overall their crash statistics for older drivers are no better or worse than ours.

“New Zealand’s older drivers are generally a safe group. Most older people drive conservatively and self-regulate their driving.

“The Labour-led government has done much to improve the driver licensing regime for older New Zealanders. These changes will make the system fairer still for our senior citizens,” Helen Clark said.

ENDS

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