A recent article in The Retiree quotes comments made by NSW Police’s Head of Traffic to the effect that people over 70 should not drive. Officer John Hartley believes older drivers should stay off the road, citing a 20 per cent increase in the number of seniors killed in traffic accidents. According to Officer Hartley older motorists had difficulty driving in the centre of a lane, going through red lights or stop signs, and backing into and over objects, and these issues put older drivers, their passengers and other road users at great risk.
There has of course been uproar from older drivers, and numerous opposing comments have been added to the news article quoting reasons why these suggestions should not be actioned.
How important is it for older drivers to continue to be able to drive, especially if they have complied with regulations that they provide medical evidence of any health problems, and have regular driving tests after a certain age? For an older person to lose their licence at the age of 70, regardless of their ability to continue to drive safely, is said, in the article, to be “draconian”. If 70 is now considered to be the “new 50”, the withdrawal of a licence means a loss of independence, and the necessity to depend on others for transport.
When I trained in the USA recently to be an Elder Mediator, it was interesting that the issue most mediated in Florida was whether an older person should be permitted to continue driving. These were usually issues brought to mediation by family members who were concerned at an older parent’s capacity to drive safely. The mediation assists family members to focus on the needs of the older parent, discuss available options, and usually a compromise can be reached, for example restrictions on the times of day (not during peak hours), the distances to be driven, and driving at night, with family members committing to assist with driving during those periods.
While Elder Mediation is not frequently used in Australia (because many people are not familiar with its benefits) it is a growing industry in Canada and the USA to assist in family disputes over a number of issues including driving, managing the elder’s finances, and the best care for the elder.
You can read the article, and make comments, here.
By Lyn Lucas
Catherine Henry Partner’s Lyn Lucas has specialist training in Elder Mediation and is available for your enquiries.