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Give plan for mandatory tests wide berth

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Last year’s road toll has fuelled prejudice towards older drivers. The focus used to be on young, fast, drunk and tired drivers. Now some people want to put the brakes on older drivers, arguing they are more likely to have crashes and should, therefore, get off the road.

It is difficult to select an age at which drivers should be categorised as “older”. The Transport Accident Commission defines an older driver as someone aged 75 and over. According to the TAC, 60 older people died on our roads last year. However, 45 per cent of these were either passengers or pedestrians.

The road toll is being used to support claims for mandatory testing and annual medical checks for older drivers. Some experts even suggest an S-plate – to warn other drivers to give them a wide berth. Last year’s road toll indicates that 160 men and 82 women died on our roads. Does the disproportionate number of men being killed indicate they are worse drivers than women? Should, then, all men be regularly tested, irrespective of whether they’ve had an accident?

The push to screen all older drivers for the sake of the few who are at risk should be resisted. Not all older drivers are poor drivers, just as not all young drivers are hoons. Ways to help older people stay on the road and drive safely should be publicly supported. To do anything else discriminates purely on the basis of age rather than an individual’s capacity.

There are many ageist assumptions regarding older people’s capacity to drive. It is assumed an older person’s functional decline – such as diminished eyesight and slower reflexes – leads to unsafe driving. But usually older drivers are aware of their limitations and modify their habits. They drive only during daylight, avoid peak hour, drive more slowly, take short trips and use well-known routes on local roads.

Research has repeatedly shown that testing does not make the roads or the older driver safer. In the mid 1990s, Liisa Hakamies-Blomqvist compared Finnish and Swedish licensing practices. At the time, Finland required regular medical check-ups in conjunction with licence renewal starting at age 70, whereas Sweden had no age-related control. The comparison showed no reduction in car crashes as a result of the Finnish program.

Hakamies-Blomqvist also noted some disadvantages associated with age-based mandatory assessment. Finland had a higher rate of older pedestrians being killed than Sweden, presumably the result of an increase in the number of older people walking rather than driving.

Accidents involving older people occur mostly at below-average speeds. However, when an older person has a car accident, they have a higher risk of severe injury or death due to their increased frailty. A crash that leaves a teenager with bruises can put an older person in hospital for a week with rib and sternum fractures.

Rather than force older drivers to take mandatory road tests in the absence of any incidents, greater consideration should be given to road design and traffic control to accommodate them. Monash University’s Accident Research Centre also suggests informing older road users of situations where they are most vulnerable and ways they can minimise their risk of injury.

While many older drivers are safe and cautious, there is evidence to suggest some do not modify their driving habits. These people may be at higher risk, and may benefit from driver awareness programs. Programs such as The Wiser Driver for older drivers provide them with knowledge about crash and injury risk, raise awareness of the effects of ageing on driving performance, and provide strategies on maintaining safe driving practices. The aim is to keep older drivers safely on the road for as long as possible.

For many of us, our licence is an essential element of our independence. In a few years, early baby boomers will hit 70. They have grown up with cars and will undoubtedly expect to keep driving to get to work, visit friends and family, go to restaurants, movies and concerts, and sporting activities. They should be able to stay on the road for as long as they are safe to do so, without being subject to discrimination.

Dr Sarah Russell is the principal researcher at Research Matters in Melbourne.

Adapted from THE AGE, Melbourne, Victoria.

January 12, 2014

 

Daughter told us later, that Badge # 3144, grabbed her from behind, put his right leg around her right leg, tripping her, causing her to fall flat on her face. He and the other police officer and security guard ripped her arms backwards and handcuffed her. Because of the horrific scream, one of the seniors (Mary Pelech) ran out and though someone closed the big double doors, she saw daughter flat on her face on the floor. Senior went to her. Because daughter was in such obvious pain, police then double hand-cuffed her. Badge # 3144 ordered daughter to get up, which was physically impossible for her.

He then took hold of one of her arms and yanked her up from behind. We have a photograph of the finger marks on her arm which resulted from the act of being pulled up.

Someone brought a wheel chair because she was unable to stand up or walk She was placed in a wheel chair and taken down to the emergency and removed from the facility. One of the seniors had left before the police arrived. Two remaining seniors, (Ruth & Bill Pelech) one of which was handcuffed by the police, (Ruth) were escorted publicly through the hallway, then down a large service elevator, accompanied by eight uniformed officers – six policemen and two security officers.

One senior (Ruth & Joanne) and daughter were both issued a $287.00 trespass ticket. The parking area behind the University Hospital was filled with at least four police cars and a police van. The entire happening was awful, terrifying, not believable. It was a show of strength by hospital staff, who used security personnel and police officers. The tragedy is that, especially, the Edmonton Police Service allowed themselves to be used to bully and threaten law abiding, tax paying, Canadian citizens and brutally and cowardly assault a very handicapped person. One officer was heard to say something to the effect that police had not done it well that day.

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