Dangers of aged-drivers could be overstated

TRYING to stem the growing rate of elderly drivers on the road could be making life more dangerous for older Australians, particularly those in regional areas who risk depression or physical health problems.

Starting this year, Queensland drivers aged 75 or over must undergo an annual medical assessment to earn permission to drive, in line with rules already in place in NSW.

NSW drivers however must also complete a practical driving test every two years once they hit 85.

New research by Queensland University of Technology researcher Dr Ides Wong suggests the perceived dangers of senior drivers could be overstated, with most avoiding night or peak hour driving as they age.

"Older drivers tell us they have changed their driving patterns as a result of age," Dr Wong said.

"In reality, they are less likely to drive on motorways and high-speed roads.

"They actually drive significantly less in general."

Dr Wong, who completed her PhD on this topic through the university's Centre for Accident Research and Road Safety, said there needed to be a focus on keeping senior Australians mobile.

"One thing we're proposing for rural and remote areas where public transport may not be feasible is for older drivers to nominate a driving partner," Dr Wong said.

By having friends or family available or community volunteers to drive, senior Australians in regional areas could be assured of some independence.

Dr Wong said most older drivers largely stuck to a strict routine, driving only a few kilometres to their nearest shops at a certain time each morning to buy a newspaper and cup of coffee.