Press Release – Automobile Association
Media Release: 31 March 2011 New resources for older drivers welcome, but uptake needed The AA is welcoming the NZ Transport Agency’s release of updated resources for older drivers today, but has concerns the information may not easily reach people. …
Media Release: 31 March 2011
New resources for older drivers welcome, but uptake needed
The AA is welcoming the NZ Transport Agency’s release of updated resources for older drivers today, but has concerns the information may not easily reach people.
AA General Manger Motoring Affairs Mike Noon says the NZTA is relying on community groups to find money to run courses and for people to also access the information online themselves.
“The Staying Safe resources the NZTA has developed are good and we appreciate that there is not much money to go around at the moment, but the information needs to reach people to be effective so we’ll be interested to see how well this happens.”
Community groups who want to run refresher workshops for older drivers will need to compete for funding because the NZTA has no money specifically for older driver courses, says Mr Noon.
“The NZTA has said it will look at funding applications from approved organisations working in communities where there are high numbers of older people such as Kapiti and Horowhenua, but obviously there are also plenty of older people who don’t live in these areas who rely on driving to get around.
“Some older people are IT savvy, but the AA is not convinced that sufficient numbers will look at the resources online to make a difference to crash rates.”
Mr Noon also says that the AA wants to see a system for monitoring the quality of courses set up.
“New Zealand has a growing number of older people and they are over-represented in vehicle crashes. When you take into account the lower kilometres driven by older people, from age 75 onwards people have a higher risk of being involved in a crash than 25-29 year olds.
“Older people are generally good at moderating their driving to their ability, but it remains a fact that as we age our sight deteriorates and our reaction times slow. We also become frailer, so the impact of a crash is usually worse,” says Mr Noon.
“Staying independently mobile is incredibly important, whatever your age, and currently in many parts of New Zealand there are not viable and affordable alternatives to driving for a lot of people.
“The government’s new resources are a good first step, but with increasing ageing of the population, more support and direct intervention funding will be needed in the future to avoid a worsening in the current situation.”
Meanwhile, the AA in association with the NZ Association of Occupational Therapists is starting a practical, in-car, personal ‘fit’ check-up programme for older drivers called CarFit.
Adapted from the USA, CarFit helps older drivers understand and customise their fit to their vehicle’s safety features and make the best use of adjustments to keep themselves driving safely for longer.
Free CarFit check-ups are run with the help of volunteers from community groups. Occupational therapists provide professional advice as required and the check-up events provide access to other information that can improve older drivers’ safety and mobility in their community.
CarFit is currently being introduced in Karori (Wellington), Levin, Wanganui and Tauranga.
Safety tips for older drivers
scan ahead and check your mirrors for hazards
• use your judgment as conditions change
• be alert, don’t drive when you’re tired
• know the road code, take advantage of resources/courses for older drivers
• drive cautiously – keep safe following distances
• indicate at least 3 seconds before turning
• plan routes and rest stops and share driving
• keep grandchildren safe – fit approved child-restraints correctly
• regular eye check-ups are important
What older drivers do well
wear seat belts
• don’t drink and drive
• don’t speed
• obey road rules and demonstrate courtesy to other road users
• drive less kilometres than younger drivers and people who drive to/for work
Where older drivers are at risk
changes in eyesight
• health issues
• side-effects from medications
• uncertainty on busy roads or intersections
• decline in physical flexibility and strength