Older Drivers (Vic)
In Victoria, the law supports drivers to continue enjoying their independence for as long as it is safe for them to do so, regardless of their age. Unlike other states that impose conditions at certain ages, an older driver in Victoria is charged with monitoring their own capacity to operate a motor vehicle. This article explains in further detail the laws for older drivers in Victoria and provides some guidance for any driver who is considering their licensing options.
Self –Assessment For Older Drivers
A driver must have adequate sight, hearing and reaction time in order to operate a vehicle safely. These are physical abilities that can deteriorate as a person gets older. Of course, not everyone ages at the same rate, and many older drivers retain the ability to drive safely. The onus is therefore on the driver to regularly evaluate their physical condition, and look for warning signs that their ability to drive is compromised, such as difficulty:
- Turning their head to see properly;
- Seeing clearly at night, in glare, or changing perspective from short to long-distance;
- Staying awake and alert, particularly during short drives and in the day;
- Maintaining calm, concentration and focus; and
- Reacting swiftly to changes to road conditions, traffic or pedestrians.
There is a misapprehension that older drivers are more dangerous drivers. Actually, statistically older drivers are less likely to be involved in car accidents, as they are more experienced and more cautious drivers. Older drivers are less likely to be charged with careless driving, they are more likely to obey the road rules, and less likely to drive under dangerous conditions or when they are intoxicated. However, when an older driver is involved in a road accident, they are more likely to be seriously injured or killed.
Driving Capacity of older drivers
In Victoria, a person may retain their licence as long as they are physically fit to operate a motor vehicle. Unlike some other states in Australia, a driver is not required to submit to regular medical evaluations or pass practical driver’s tests once they reach a certain age. Instead, it is the driver’s responsibility to monitor their health and understand how changes to their health could impact their driving.
Under the Road Safety (Drivers) Regulations 2019, a driver must notify Vic Roads within 14 days if there is a change to their capacity to drive caused by an injury, medical condition, disability or long-term illness. The driver must arrange for their doctor to complete a medical report explaining the nature of the changes. This also applies to any treatment or medication that impairs the person’s ability to drive competently. An infraction of this law is punishable by 3 penalty units (the current conversion for this type of fine is available here).
A driver may be required to undertake a medical review if someone has reported concerns to VicRoads about their ability to drive safely. The driver will then have to submit to a medical review and arrange for the report to be sent to VicRoads by the due date, although it may be possible to obtain an extension if the driver can justify the delay and show that they have arranged medical appointments.
The authorities will usually make a decision based on the information contained in the report, but occasionally they will ask for further information, a practical driving test or for the driver to have a specialist assess their fitness to drive. VicRoads will either let the driver keep their licence without conditions, or make their licence subject to certain conditions or periodic review. Alternatively, VicRoads may decide that there is no choice but to cancel the licence altogether.
There is no mandatory reporting in Victoria so physicians are not obliged to inform the authorities of changes to a driver’s medical fitness to drive. There have been calls for changes to the law given recent tragic road accidents involving older drivers, but it is currently still considered the driver’s responsibility to self-report.
Giving Up A Licence In Victoria
A driver may decide that it is the safest option to surrender their license to drive in Victoria. A driver can cancel their licence in person or by post, or an authorised person may complete the task with written authority from the driver. The driver will receive a partial refund for surrendering their licence. It is important that a driver is aware that if they give up their license and are subsequently found to be driving, they will be charged with driving without a licence.
If you are an older driver in Victoria, you have a greater responsibility to monitor your own health and physical capacity. Unlike older drivers in other states and territories who are subject to state checks, when you live in Victoria you must stay vigilant of whether your age is impacting on your ability to safely navigate on the roads. Contact the solicitors at Armstrong Legal for advice on laws for older drivers or legal assistance if you need help with a traffic accident. Please call the team on 1300 038 223 today for any legal advice or representation.