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Older Drivers (NSW)

As someone gets older, they may notice that their eyesight is not as sharp and their reflexes are slower. One consequence of these physical changes is that the person may not be as safe a driver and older drivers need to be aware of the dangers introduced by these physical changes. In each state and territory, older drivers have responsibilities in relation to their changing physical and mental capacity. This article explains the licensing laws relating to older drivers in New South Wales.

Physical And Medical Capacity To Drive In NSW

All drivers in NSW must notify Roads and Maritime if they are suffering from a medical condition that impacts their ability to drive competently and safely. A driver who is not physically and medically fit and continues to get behind the wheel may be found to have committed reckless driving or dangerous driving even if their actions were unintentional.

A driver will be asked to have a doctor evaluate their fitness to drive before a decision is made as to whether the driver should have their licence modified or retain their licence at all. A driver suffering from a medical condition may be able to keep a conditional licence for limited driving if they undergo regular medical evaluations. For instance, a driver with deteriorating eyesight may be able to drive in daylight hours, but not after dark.

Older Drivers In NSW

The licensing system in NSW is designed to balance the rights of an older driver with the safety of other road users. As such, a driver can retain their license as long as they can prove that they are physically and mentally capable of operating a vehicle safely. The Road Transport (Driver Licensing) Regulation 2017 (NSW) states that every driver over the age of 75 must obtain annual medical assessments in order to keep their license. Once they reach the age of 85, they must also pass a practical driving test every other year to hold on to their unrestricted driver’s licence.

Licence Requirements 75 And Older

NSW Roads and Maritime Services sends a driver some paperwork a few months before their 75th birthday. The driver has a responsibility to have a medical assessment and have their physician fill in the form with details of their physical fitness to operate a vehicle. This form must be returned before the driver turns 75. A driver who anticipates that it will be difficult to arrange the medical evaluation within those two months can have a check-up early and submit the medical form pre-emptively at any time in the six months before their 75th birthday.

Licence Requirements 85 And Older

A driver aged 85 or older who wants to retain their unrestricted licence must attend a yearly medical assessment and pass a practical driving test every two years. The older driver can take the on-road assessment three times without fee at a testing centre, or if the driver prefers, they can arrange a private assessment with an accredited driving instructor. A driver can take a private assessment as many times as they wish within a two-month time period. Crucially, this assessment must be finalised before the driver’s 85th birthday.

Heavy Vehicle Licensing For Older Drivers In NSW

A driver with a heavy vehicle license (LR to HC) will need to pass a practical driving test every year after they turn 80 in order to retain their licence. Multi-combination (MC) licence holders must sit a driving test every year once they reach the age of 70.

Modified Licences For Older Drivers In NSW

Often a person over the age of 85 will choose to give up an unrestricted license and retain only a modified licence. With a modified licence, the driver will still have to submit to an annual medical assessment but can forego the practical driving test. With a modified licence, the driver can only drive short distances within their local area to shop and attend medical appointments, necessary services and community activities. The allowable distance depends on whether the driver lives in urban or rural NSW, as a driver will have to travel further distances to access services in regional NSW.

Giving Up A Licence

Some older drivers in NSW choose to relinquish their licences altogether. A driver can hand the licence into a registry or service centre (if posting then the sender should include a note detailing their decision to give up their licence). It is important that anyone who gives up a license actually follows through and does not drive without a licence, as to do so is a punishable traffic offence. The Registry offers a free NSW Photo Card in place of the licence for identification purposes.

If you are concerned about an older driver in NSW, you can inform Roads and Maritime and they will look into the matter. Alternatively, if you are an older driver and want to know more about your rights in NSW, please call 1300 038 223 for expert legal advice. If you want to appeal a medical assessment of your capacity to hold a licence, please contact Armstrong Legal for assistance.

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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