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Laws For Older Drivers (WA)

In Western Australia, there are mandatory requirements for older drivers who want to retain their driving licence. These laws are designed to allow WA seniors the independence to drive while it is safe for them to operate a motor vehicle, balanced against the safety of other road users. This article explains the laws for older drivers in WA with a particular focus on how older drivers can retain their licences.

Older Drivers In WA

An older driver is not necessarily a more dangerous driver. In fact, older drivers are often more cautious, vigilant and willing to follow traffic laws. They are therefore less inclined to drive at illegal speeds, drive while intoxicated or drive while distracted.

Older drivers are cautious with good reason. An older driver is more vulnerable when they are involved in a traffic incident. Between 2016 and 2020, drivers over the age of 60 made up 19% of those who were seriously or fatally injured in car accidents in WA, not because they were involved in more accidents but because they were more physically vulnerable to the impact of accidents.

Assessing Capacity of older drivers To Drive Safely

As people age, there is often a negative effect on the physical capabilities that are necessary to be a safe driver. However, these changes are not strictly tied to biological age, and capacity will be different for each person. It is therefore essential for every driver to stay vigilant and practice self-assessment of their medical and physical fitness to operate a car on the roads.

An older driver should be vigilant of risks associated with:

  • Medication which may cause blurred or double vision, nausea, drowsiness, dizziness or shaking;
  • Vision impairment that makes it harder for older drivers to assess speed and judge distances. A driver must have regular eye and hearing examinations and wear spectacles as prescribed; and
  • Compromised flexibility and reaction time.

Driving License Requirements In Western Australia

In Western Australia, every driver is required to notify the Department of Transport if he or she is suffering from an illness or medical condition that impact on their ability to drive. A driver who does not report the change in their medical condition, and is subsequently involved in a traffic accident, may invalidate their insurance and may even be liable for prosecution.

Once a driver reaches the age of 80 in WA, they must undergo a yearly medical assessment in order to retain their licence. This assessment will evaluate the driver’s physical and medical fitness to drive. A senior driver must then ask their doctor to complete a medical assessment certificate for the renewal of their driver’s licence. If the doctor agrees that the driver’s health is adequate, they can sign off on the renewal of the licence.

There is no longer a requirement for drivers over the age of 85 to take mandatory Practical Driving Assessments (PDA) unless a physician has made a recommendation to that effect. If the doctor is not satisfied that the driver licence should be renewed, they can recommend that the driver take a PDA to further assess their capacity to drive. However, if the licence allows the driver to operate heavy vehicles, after the age of 85 the driver will need to pass a heavy vehicle PDA before renewing his or her licence.

Surrendering A License

An older driver can choose to surrender their licence if they or a doctor or family member has concerns about their capacity to drive safely. It is important to know that surrendering a driver licence is not the end of an older person’s independence. In WA, a senior with a concession card can travel for free on Transperth services every weekday from 9 am to 3:30 pm, and all day on the weekend and public holidays.

Many senior citizens use scooters and motorised wheelchairs to stay mobile when their physical capacity is compromised. Under traffic law in WA, users of these personal transportation devices are classified not as drivers but as passengers. Older drivers can use motorised wheelchairs and scooters on shared paths, footpaths and where there is no footpath, the sides of the road. Under the Road Traffic Code 2000, a user of these devices cannot exceed 10 km/h unless the device is registered as a vehicle with the Department of Transport.

Reporting Unsafe Older Drivers In WA

Anyone can report their concern about an older driver in Western Australia to the Department of Transport. For an urgent matter, it is better to call the Police Assistance Centre on 131 444.

The team at Armstrong Legal can help you with advice if you need further information about driving over the age of 80, reporting an unsafe driver or appealing the cancellation of your licence. Please call 1300 038 223 to make an appointment for legal assistance or representation.

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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