From time to time, we receive calls from distraught senior drivers who have been unable to renew their license when a medical professional has refused to grant them a medical certificate.
In some circumstances, this can lead to older motorists feeling isolated – particularly for those who live in rural areas where public transport is less accessible.
We’re living longer, we’re driving longer
The fact is, life expectancy is increasing thanks to improvements in medical treatment and care, and we are all now more likely to reach an age when driving could present more hazards to ourselves and other road users.
As we get older, we’re more likely to experience diminished cognitive, physical or visual abilities and require medication. These are all instances that are more likely to impair our driving and impact our ability to assess hazards and react quickly.
With baby boomers now coming towards retirement age, it’s expected that by the late 2030s, Kiwis aged 65 and over will make up around 25% of the population.
Upon reaching the ages of 75 and 80, and every second birthday after that, drivers must obtain a medical certificate for driver license from a doctor. Your medical professional will check your overall health and eyesight, and subsequently decide whether or not you need to resit and pass an on-road safety test.
There are five potential outcomes of the medical examination:
- Medically fit to drive
- Medically fit to drive with conditions (e.g. corrective lenses, time-of-day or distance restrictions)
- Medically fit to drive subject to passing an on-road safety test
- In need of specialist referral (e.g. optometrist or occupational therapist driving assessor)
- Not medically fit to drive.
In the event of being declared not medically fit to drive, the doctor must advise the NZTA and your license will expire on your birthday.
Preparing to pass
The good news is that AA Driving School offers a free in-car coaching session to AA Members over 74 years old, to help them retain their mobility, freedom and independence.
This programme aims to help senior drivers prepare for a potential test resit, and familiarise themselves with the current road safety landscape and regulations and any changes that they should be aware of. An AA Driving Instructor will meet you at your preferred location and the session will take place in your own car.
The hour-long session includes a 30-minute drive along a route of your choice – perhaps you want a focus on motorway or night driving and a 15 minute top and tail review of the vehicle set up and of your drive. You can book these online at aa.co.nz/senior-driver or by calling 0800 223 748.
A little bit of preparation
Nobody wants to hear that their driving may not be up to standard, especially as it could be argued that there are other motorists whose skills on the road are equally below par, but the vast majority understand why it’s important to resit a test as they get older.
Both in terms of safety and driver confidence, the benefits of taking additional paid lessons with an “I” endorsed (preferably AA!) Instructor cannot be underestimated.
The Free Senior Driver session for AA members 74+ is a great “check-in” but any number of paid sessions afterwards may be beneficial to focus on anything in particular that the driver wishes to.
An Instructor will tailor a lesson/session to suit the driver’s needs. This applies just as much to experienced drivers as it does to younger drivers/learners.