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  • Writer's pictureFlow Australia

Push back on call for older drivers to have check-ups

Doctors are leading a fresh push for all drivers aged 75 and older to have yearly health checks but say driving tests should be up to regulators.

The Victorian government is resisting calls for drivers to undergo annual health checks once they turn 75 to ensure they are fit to get behind the wheel.

The Royal Australian College of General Practitioners wants Victoria to introduce age-based regulations for drivers in line with other states.

There were 247 fatal collisions in Victoria in the 2022-23 financial year and 28 of those involved a driver at fault who was 65 or older, Victoria Police data shows.

Victoria does not require drivers over a certain age to have a health check before driving.

However, drivers in NSW, Queensland, ACT, Tasmania and the Northern Territory must have medical checks after 75.

The age is lifted to 80 in Western Australia while older drivers in South Australia must complete self-assessments.

"We're calling on the government to consider making these annual health checks just part of routine business and making it mandatory just like it is in other states," RACGP vice president Michael Clements said.

The college is not pushing for mandatory driving tests and Associate Professor Clements believes health assessments offer the "biggest bang for buck".

People can be slower to react to new threats or develop vision, memory or concentration concerns due to ageing or new medication.

"Our ability to respond to shocks, changes in weather conditions, kids running out on the roads chasing a ball, all of those things happen quite suddenly," Prof Clements said.

"We do need all of our faculties to carry out that appropriately."

Prof Clements said assessments were straightforward and quick if a driver was safe, although he acknowledged many patients found the topic confronting.

However, Victorian minister Steve Dimopoulos rejected the call, saying drivers aged 75 already had to renew their licence every three years, which could include various tests.

"There's no compelling evidence that would indicate that an age based assessment model makes it any safer for drivers on the road," he told reporters.

Council on the Ageing Victoria and Seniors Rights Victoria chief executive Chris Potaris said mandatory driving tests for older drivers would be "ageist and arbitrary".

Driving should be based on ability rather than age and costly medical tests could prompt older people to relinquish their licence prematurely, which could leave them isolated, he said.

There are concerns that older people who relinquish their licence could be isolated.

"We believe the current system and approach already provides that safety net, with suitable and appropriate opportunities to engage with drivers,"  Mr Potaris said.

"Older drivers do not inherently pose a greater safety risk on roads compared to other age groups."

A spokesperson for the Department of Transport and Planning said all drivers were encouraged to consult their doctor about how health conditions and medication could impact their driving.


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