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Safe with Age courses

Safe with Age courses

Grey Power is deeply disturbed at the Government's axing of the Safe With Age Driver Education Programme for mature drivers. According to a NZ Transport Agency letter to Safe With Age providers dated 27th August 2009, NZTA's primary focus is 'on programmes that significantly deliver on the road safety' or 'achieve a change in travel behaviour that will reduce severe congestion in major urban areas'. Since the NZTA admits that the course providers have "helped improve mature drivers' road safety awareness and increased their confidence and skills to continue to drive safely", can Grey Power safely assume therefore that the NZTA aim is now to reduce congestion.

The NZTA also advise that they plan to look at alternative older driver education approaches with a view to pilot a new scheme in 2010-11: one that is cost-efficient and will reach a greater proportion of older drivers. Given that an effective scheme was already in place, Grey Power consider it a waste of public money, time and resources to bin one course with a view to starting from scratch with research and consultation for a new scheme. In the meantime, there is no scheme at all.

The Safe With Age courses were set up in October 2001 to support healthy, independent ageing by enabling safe, prolonged mobility thereby reducing injuries and hospitalisation, and it was a defensive driving course aimed at the over 75 age group drivers; giving them a refresher course plus the skills to be able to recognise the effect of age-related conditions on their driving, identify how their own driving is affected, and what coping strategies can be used to compensate. It was the only programme of its type that focused on driving.

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Grey Power is aware that demand for the course was high, with many on waiting lists. The Minister of Transport stated that the course "was very popular among mature drivers in the community. However, the course nationally had a very low impact – reaching only 4,000 participants a year out of a potential pool of 807,165 licence holders over the age of 55". Grey Power believes that these figures are misleading as the course was designed for the over 75 age group, not the over 55s. We believe it should read 4,000 over 7-8 years = 28-32,000 participants from a possible pool of [undisclosed number] of over 75 year olds. Grey Power is also concerned that the programme was terminated prior to any evaluation, which we understand was due to happen later in 2009.

We are currently left in the dark and don't know what to tell our members. We are further concerned that the Government's review of the free travel component of the SuperGold card will severely impact on the ability of mature residents to be able to maintain their independence.


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