TOUGHER RULES: Graham Kelly, 81, is happy to have annual medical checks to keep his driver’s licence.
TOUGHER RULES: Graham Kelly, 81, is happy to have annual medical checks to keep his driver’s licence. Claudia Baxter

Seniors back more checks for elderly drivers

ELDERLY Queensland drivers now require annual medical checks if they want to stay behind the wheel, under new state laws introduced this month.

Currently, motorists aged 75 years or older must carry a medical certificate when driving.

The doctor's certificate could previously be valid for up to five years. But legislative amendments now mean certificates are only valid up to 12 months.

In enforcing the new laws, the Department of Transport and Main Roads said drivers aged 75 years and older had a higher risk, per distance travelled, of being killed in a crash than any age group.

Raceview grandfather Graham Kelly, a driver for 63 years, said he wasn't bothered by the amended law.

In fact, he welcomed the idea.

The 81-year-old said it was important for elderly drivers to know their limitations on the road to help avoid accidents.

"I get medical check-ups each year anyway," he said. "When I drive, I do so when the streets aren't so busy and I don't drive at night anymore."

Yamanto grandfather of six, Tom Bevan, 78, also said the new laws sounded "fair enough."

"When you get old, your medical condition can change radically in short periods," he said.

"And it can happen so gradually that you don't even notice your condition is deteriorating.

"One thing is your eyes; I've had a cataract removed from one eye and need to get another one removed which means driving at night can be difficult for me."

RACQ spokesman Joel Tucker said the amended law was made based on recommendations from the State Government's Older Driver Safety Advisory Committee.

The committee provides a perspective on older driver safety that reflects the views of older drivers, their families, medical practitioners, the community and the government.

Mr Tucker said many doctors didn't feel comfortable issuing medical certificates to the elderly for more than a year anyway, so the law was just formalising that.

"Medical conditions can change a lot in the course of a year which is why most doctors were reluctant to issue certificates for five years," he said.

"But it's not just people older than 75 who should be monitored.

"Fitness to drive isn't dependent on age, it's about the ability of the driver and how medical conditions can affect their capacity to drive."