‘Ageist and arbitrary’: Push for mandatory health checks on older drivers sparks controversy and opposition

Apr 30, 2024
While some argue that age-based health checks are necessary, others believe they unfairly target older individuals. Source: Getty Images.

In a debate sparking concern among older adults, the Victorian government remains resolute in resisting calls for drivers aged 75 and above to undergo annual health checks, a move that could potentially impact freedom behind the wheel.

The Royal Australian College of General Practitioners (RACGP) has been vocal in urging Victoria to align its regulations with other states, where such checks are mandatory.

“We’re calling on the government to consider making these annual health checks just part of routine business and making it mandatory just like it is in other states,” RACGP vice president Michael Clements told AAP.

“Our ability to respond to shocks, changes in weather conditions, kids running out on the roads chasing a ball, all of those things happen quite suddenly.

“We do need all of our faculties to carry out that appropriately.”

The statistics fueling this debate are sobering In the 2022-23 financial year alone, Victoria recorded 247 fatal collisions, with 28 involving drivers aged 65 or older, according to Victoria Police data.

While some argue that age-based health checks could potentially mitigate these numbers, others believe they unfairly target older individuals.

Victorian Minister Steve Dimopoulos dismissed the proposal, noting that drivers aged 75 already undergo license renewals every three years, a process which may encompass various assessments.

“There’s no compelling evidence that would indicate that an age based assessment model makes it any safer for drivers on the road,” he told reporters.

Chris Potaris, chief executive of both Council on the Ageing Victoria and Seniors Rights Victoria, criticised the notion of mandatory driving tests for older individuals, labelling them “ageist and arbitrary.”

“Driving should be based on ability rather than age and costly medical tests could prompt older people to relinquish their licence prematurely, which could leave them isolated,” Potaris said.

“We believe the current system and approach already provides that safety net, with suitable and appropriate opportunities to engage with drivers.

“Older drivers do not inherently pose a greater safety risk on roads compared to other age groups.”

A spokesperson for the Department of Transport and Planning said all drivers were encouraged to consult their doctor about how health conditions and medication could impact their driving.

-with AAP.

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