Calls to stop seniors driving based on prejudice, not fact
NEW South Wales' top traffic cop says drivers over the age of 70 should consider handing back their licences.
Seniors groups, scientists and the National Roads and Motorists Association have all howled down Assistant Commissioner John Hartley's comments that older drivers were liabilities on the road.
NRMA president Kyle Loades said the idea was not based on fact.
"In 2015, a year in which the toll increased dramatically, 33 people over the age of 70 were killed driving a motor vehicle on NSW roads - that's one more than in 2014," he said.
"Statistics showed a greater increase in passenger, motorcyclist and pedestrian fatalities in this age group during 2015.
"The NRMA is appalled by last year's road toll, but clearly it's misguided to blame older drivers."
Council on the Ageing NSW CEO Ian Day said over-70s in regional NSW often had to choose between driving and total isolation.
"If you're on the North Coast, the substitute for driving is nothing. There is no public transport at all," he said.
"Anybody over 70 who doesn't drive is basically locked away where they are."
Mr Day slammed a recent suggestion from insurance firm QBE that drivers should have to wear "S-plates" on their cars after their 60th birthday.
"This is an insurance company that has statistics like they are going out of style," Mr Day said.
"If they were concerned about the risk of older drivers having accidents, their premiums would be through the roof.
"But they're not. They're generally smaller than middle aged drivers and are certainly a heck of a lot smaller than for under 25-year-olds.
"A lot of age discrimination goes on, and it is all based on a high level of ignorance."
University of Queensland clinical neuropsychologist Dr Nancy Pachana said Assistant Commissioner Hartley had misinterpreted the statistics.
"The NSW police are confusing the greater vulnerability to injury with driving skills," she said.
"Older people have increasingly frail bones and are more susceptible to motor vehicle injuries, not just as drivers, but also as passengers and pedestrians.
"It's ageist to state a person cannot drive just because of their age."