Response from police on senior drivers

As a result of contacting the office of the NSW Police Commissioner, I received the following from their PR office. I

As a result of contacting the office of the NSW Police Commissioner, I received the following from their PR office. I thank them for their timely response. However, it does not explain how the media arrived at the conclusions they did as a result of Assistant Commissioner Hartley’s remarks.

Here is the response to me in full:

Thanks for writing to NSW Police about the recent discussion around senior drivers. Many people have written to us on the issue, however there appears to be some misconception about what Assistant Commissioner John Hartley actually said.

For clarity, here is a letter he has written which outlines his views in his own words, rather than comments in the media that go well beyond what he actually said.

“The debate in recent days about the road toll and driving capacity of elderly drivers is a very important discussion. I care about lives and families and that’s why I raised the issue.

Let me assure you this is not about pointing the finger at our senior drivers or any one group of motorists.

Our road toll was higher in 2015 than the previous year and that worries me. There are a range of factors that contributed to that increase.

The over-representation of senior drivers was one factor, but not the only one. I care about senior drivers just as I care about young people, motorcyclists, cyclists and pedestrians.

Senior drivers haven’t been singled out and nor should perfectly capable senior drivers be forced off the road simply on account of a number. That is not something I have ever advocated.

What I do advocate is that senior drivers and their families do their own stock-take of their driving capacity and make their own decision.

That’s the point I am making. Call it a stock-take, call it a risk analysis or just give it some thought. There might be some warning signs that may cause you to reconsider your future driving habits.

Do I need to drive at night or I am losing confidence behind the wheel? These are very sensible things to consider and I believe I have a responsibility to raise them, even if it upsets a few people.

Of course there are problems with younger drivers and other road users. Those problems have other causes and the solutions are different.

Younger drivers are still gaining experience that older drivers already have. They are prone to more risky types of behaviour that are more particular to youth and we are speaking about those issues all the time.

There’s been a lot of talk about statistics. The fact is provisional crash data from 2015 shows that 18% (52 of 296) of the drivers of passenger vehicles involved in fatal crashes were aged over 70.

That is, ten percent of the driving population are involved in 18% of the fatal crashes.

In 2013, the NSW Government’s Older Drivers Taskforce made a detailed study of crash and medical evidence.

It found that the current approach to licensing strikes the right balance between mobility for older drivers and safety for all road users.

We all understand how important mobility is and we want older drivers to keep driving, as long as they are physically and mentally able to do so.

I think the discussion of the past few days has been an important one, but it is not a discussion about compelling people to give up their driving because of a number. We are all different with different capacities, but nothing stays the same forever.

As always, please drive safely and have a happy 2016 on our roads.”


Tell us, do you think this was an adequate response?

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  1. Myself a Professional Driver in my 60tees listen to people every day complaining that their Doctor has taken their License away. then they proceed to tell me but I’ve been driving since I was Seventeen and I’ve never had an Accident maybe so but the Doctor isn’t doing it for you he is removing your ability to Drive because your chances of having a accident are to great and he as you have a responsibility to your fellow Drivers to call it quits when its Time.

  2. I think he was making a valid point!! Unfortunately a lot of senior drivers are more likely to be on prescription meds and that could be a factor in the statistics….
    I believe all he is saying is for those close to a senior driver to take note of how they drive and if they have concerns talk about it!!
    I know that there may be a possibility of resistance to the discussion however I know if it were me I would gladly listen to objective criticism if my loved ones were concerned about my driving….

    • But that is not what he actually said at the time, it has been “softened” since. Of course there comes a time when we should evaluate if we are still ok to drive, but to blatantly say at a specific age no person should be allowed to drive is both offensive and ridiculous!

      • I totally agree with you Penny Booth. These things must be individually assessed, as everyone is different.

        • sami agree, also. The “sound bites” used on some TV newscasts indicated a much wider stance. Yes, I know that the media often gets things “out of context”. But there have been a few statements emanating from NSW bureaucrats and politicians in recent months that have indicated someone must at least be looking at senior licences in a broader way. Politicians – and senior bureaucrats – have a habit of tossing stones into the pond to see how many ripples they get. Just continue to watch this one.

    • Just Senior drivers on medication Nancye? Not only are the drugs of the young not prescription – but they have no idea of the strength of the each dosage. Different from one batch (mixed in a toilet bowl so it can be flushed if there’s a knock at the door) to another.Over 70’s may be on prescribed medication but they know exactly what reaction they have to it. The only time over 70’s don’t know what to expect is if their medicine is changed. Young drivers never know how much of a drug they’ve taken – and neither do they care.

      • Margaret  

        I am a 71 y.o. driver, my Grandaughters say I am safer than their friends to drive with……and they are 18 and 19. On the other hand I have a relative, same age who is on prescription medication. He was fine until they changed the medication and he got a bit foggy. He said it may be time to give up driving. We are both the same age, both in a different situation, but both responsible about reality and act on it. How responsible are young drug takers and drinkers who may cause an accident involving an older person, but the oldies get the blame as ” they may not be with it”. Be fair and judge watch each person individually. I would be more than happy to take an annual driving test and medical, but them so should everyone as things change.

  3. I take the point, and it is valid – I’m 81 yrs , still alert but not a risk taker, while many others want to rush – I move along with the traffic & use common sense, courtesy & caution at all times – which every driver should use regardless of their age.

    • My late mother’s best friend stopped highway driving from Maryborough Qld to Brisbane in her late 80’s. She drove locally till she was 90. At 91 she has decided she needs more care and has reluctantly sold her unit and car and moved to a place of her choosing. I hope you can do the same Lorraine. .

  4. Jacquie Murray  

    I would like to know how old Mr Hartley is? I am what is classified as a senior being 61, and I think this is very ageist. Government wants us to work til we are 70 or older but tell me, how do we get to these jobs we are supposed have? They have the stats on older drive accident ratios, but do they have the stats on who caused the accidents they are in? Will they publish them? We are an aging population so it kinda stands to reason that the odds of an older person being in an accident are pretty high. The government seems to want us to work longer, pay more tax and be self sufficient but by the same token stay off the roads and stay quiet. Not in my nature.

    • Sue McGrath  

      So agree with Jacquie Murray. Governments want us to work longer, not go on the pension etc, keep paying our way, but how are we supposed to get around when the transport system in most places is practically non-existent or unreliable. Age should not be the criteria. Ability is the whole crux of this argument. Regular and more frequent testing is a necessity and should be imperative as our population ages. Most of us, like me, have been driving for more that 50years without mishap, accepting all the changes along the way. Look at the causes of the accidents involving older generation drivers before tarring all of us with the same brush. Some younger drivers and those from other non-English speaking countries should not be behind the wheel at all. Still can’t fathom how you can get your license in an English speaking Country, be expected to read and understand the signage, if you can’t speak the language. And visitors from Overseas who hire cars here? What about them? I think there’s a whole lot of other incidents on our road that also require investigation, apart from the older drivers.

  5. don campbell  

    once i reached 70years i realised i am not bulletproof and i drive accordingly ,that is if in doubt don,t take any risks ..

  6. He stated, “The fact is provisional crash data from 2015 shows that 18% (52 of 296) of the drivers of passenger vehicles involved in fatal crashes were aged over 70.”
    It only says that many were drivers of passenger INVOLVED in fatal crashes. It does not say how many were the CAUSE of fatal crashes. There is a difference.

  7. Greg Ovens  

    It is a very reasoned response, as I wpuld expect from someone in his position!

  8. Peter Smith  

    this was just a political runaround. Still nothing of the FACT that Assistant Commissioner Hartley’s remarks. Did indicate that older drivers need to be off the road and also saying he > himself would Pass his licence in

  9. I think this chap hit the nail on the head ,the media reads into things lots of rubbish, and it would be a rotten place to live or visit which is a lie ,I just told an American this is the number one bestest place in the world .

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