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Effectiveness of Mandatory License Testing

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Comparative Study Traffic Inj Prev 2004 Dec;5(4):326-35. doi: 10.1080/15389580490509464.

Effectiveness of Mandatory License Testing for Older Drivers in Reducing
Crash Risk Among Urban Older Australian Drivers

Jim Langford 1 , Michael Fitzharris, Sjaanie Koppel, Stuart Newstead

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PMID: 15545070 DOI: 10.1080/15389580490509464


Most licensing jurisdictions in Australia maintain mandatory assessment programs
targeting older drivers, whereby a driver reaching a specified age is required
to prove his or her fitness to drive through medical assessment and/or on-road

Previous studies both in Australia and elsewhere have consistently failed
to demonstrate that age-based mandatory assessment results in reduced crash involvement
for older drivers.
However studies that have based their results upon either
per-population or per-driver crash rates fail to take into account possible differences
in driving activity.

Because some older people maintain their driving licenses but rarely if ever drive,
the proportion of inactive license-holders might be higher in jurisdictions
without mandatory assessment relative to jurisdictions with periodic license assessment,
where inactive drivers may more readily either surrender or lose their licenses.

The failure to control for possible differences in driving activity across jurisdictions
may be disguising possible safety benefits associated with mandatory assessment.
current study compared the crash rates of drivers in Melbourne, Australia, where there
is no mandatory assessment and Sydney, Australia, where there is regular mandatory
assessment from 80 years of age onward.

The crash rate comparisons were based on four
exposure measures:

1) per population

2) per licensed driver,

3) per distance driven,

4) per time spent driving.

Poisson regression analysis incorporating an offset to control for inter-jurisdictional
road safety differences indicated that there was no difference in crash risk for older
drivers based on population. However drivers aged 80 years and older in the Sydney region
had statistically higher rates of casualty crash involvement than their Melbourne
counterparts on a per license issued basis (RR: 1.15, 1.02-1.29, p=0.02) and time spent
driving basis (RR: 1.19, 1.06-1.34, p=0.03). A similar trend was apparent based on distance
travelled but was of borderline statistical significance (RR: 1.11, 0.99-1.25, p=0.07).

Collectively, it can be inferred from these findings that mandatory license re-testing
schemes of the type evaluated have no demonstrable road safety benefits overall. Further
research to resolve this on-going policy debate is discussed and recommended.