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Laws For Older Drivers (ACT)

In the Australian Capital Territory, older drivers can retain their licence as long as they submit to yearly medical examinations after they turn 75. This is in line with general requirements for drivers with medical conditions in the ACT. This article outlines the laws for older drivers in the ACT and explains some of the warning signs to look out for to ensure that a driver is not prone to dangerous or culpable driving.

Medical Requirements For Driving Licenses In The ACT

Every driver in the ACT has a legal responsibility to report changes to their medical fitness to drive to the Road Transport Authority (RTA). For instance, a driver must notify authorities if they suffer from a long-term or permanent injury, illness, or impairment that affects their ability to drive. Even if an individual does not have an official medical diagnosis, a driver must truthfully report information about their faculties.

A driver with a medical condition might be subject to a conditional licence and have to submit to periodic medical review in order to retain their driver licence in the future. Importantly, if the driver is permitted to drive despite their condition, they must comply with their treatment protocol. For instance, a conditional licence for a driver with diabetes may require that the driver take insulin as prescribed in order to control any symptoms.

Laws For Older Drivers In The ACT

Once a driver has reached the age of 75 in the ACT, they must have their fitness to drive assessed by their doctor every year in order to hold on to their basic driving licence. The medical professional will then complete a Driver Licence Medical Form and return the documentation to the RTA.

A higher threshold applies to heavy-duty licences. For instance, a holder of a public vehicle licence (such as for a bus or taxi) must, after reaching 70 years of age, have a yearly commercial medical assessment and a driving assessment for the particular class of licence they hold.

Self-Assessment For Older Drivers In The ACT

Older drivers need to proactively monitor their own health and wellbeing to ensure that they recognise signs of diminishing capacity to drive. Every driver should conduct regular self-assessment and flag any instance with their doctor if they:

  • Struggle to see properly while driving, at night in the glare of oncoming traffic, or shifting perspective between the road and the instrument panel of the car;
  • Have difficulty maintaining concentration while driving, or are exhausted after driving short distances;
  • Are taking medications that impact on their ability to drive safely;
  • Have difficulty moving their body (particularly head, neck and shoulders) in order to see adequately as they drive and park;
  • Find themselves relying more on passengers to alert them to dangers and obstructions on the road or while parking;
  • Notice that their reflexes or judgment are not as they once were;
  • Cannot remain calm while driving; or
  • Operate the vehicle at dangerously fast or slow speeds.

Surrendering A License

An older driver may recognise that they are no longer confident in their ability to drive safely anymore. In that case, they can surrender their licence to the RTA or give someone else written authority to perform the task on their behalf. Under the Road Transport (Driver Licensing) Regulation 2000, a driver with more than one type of licence (for instance, a heavy vehicle licence as well as a car licence) can surrender one type and retain the other type.

How To Report Unsafe Drivers

There is no mandatory reporting requirement for medical professionals in the ACT. There is, however, provision for someone such as a physician or optometrist to exercise discretionary reporting and notify authorities that they have concerns over their patient’s ability to drive based on a physical examination. The RTA receives reports about older drivers from a variety of concerned citizens, including general practitioners, optometrists, nurses, caseworkers, police officers and laypersons.

If the RTA receives a report concerning the driving of an older person, they will typically ask the driver to submit to a medical examination and/or practical driving assessment to verify the validity of the claim. In the event that the RTA then orders the suspension or cancellation of a driver’s licence, the driver can appeal to the ACT Civil and Administrative Tribunal for a reexamination of the decision.

It is in the interests of all road users for drivers to elect to cease driving at an appropriate time. However, there are occasions when the suspension or cancellation of a drivers licence can be an abuse of process or overstep of administrative power. It can even be used as a tactic of harassment. If you find yourself in this position, do not hesitate to seek help from a solicitor.

Contact the solicitors at Armstrong Legal on 1300 038 223 for advice on the appeals process or for further information on medical standards and laws for older drivers in the ACT.

Dr Nicola Bowes

This article was written by Dr Nicola Bowes

Dr Nicola Bowes holds a Bachelor of Arts with first class honours from the University of Tasmania, a Bachelor of Laws with first class honours from the Queensland University of Technology, and a PhD from The University of Queensland. After a decade working in higher education, Nicola joined Armstrong Legal in 2020.

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