Crashes involving elderly on the rise

LEIGHTON KEITH
Last updated 05:00 25/07/2013

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Taranaki agencies are concerned elderly drivers are getting involved in more serious injury and fatal crashes and potentially putting other motorists at risk.

A seminar, Elderly Drivers - To Drive or Not to Drive, was held yesterday at the New Plymouth District Council chambers and attended by more than 60 people.

The crowd heard presentations from Roadsafe Taranaki, the Taranaki Regional Council, Age Concern and the Drivers Assessment Service.

New Zealand Transport Agency statistics show nationally drivers over the age of 65 were involved in 45 fatal and 219 serious injury crashes in 2008. The numbers increased to 59 fatal and 228 serious injury accidents in 2012.

In Taranaki NZTA statistics showed there was one fatal crash and seven serious injury crashes involving drivers aged over 65 in 2008 and in 2012 there were five fatal and four serious injury crashes for the same age group.

John Cunningham, 77, of Positive Aging Trust, chaired the seminar and said if older drivers kept themselves informed and were aware of changes there was no reason they couldn't keep driving.

Roadsafe Taranaki co-ordinator Marion Webby said older drivers were becoming involved in more accidents on the roads.

"The statistics are showing that Taranaki has a little bit of an issue with older drivers," Ms Webby said.

"The statistics are not good. Over the last couple of years elderly drivers have been involved in more serious injury and fatal accidents.

"They've got to take some responsibility, if they know that they are unwell, don't get in the car and drive."

Ms Webby said she hoped the discussions would help people gauge whether they were safe enough to be driving.

"A lot of people just think that they are a pain but we want to know what's making them lose confidence or making them feel unsafe on the road," she said.

Kevin Wellington, a former police sergeant with 42 years experience patrolling New Zealand's highways, said he would like to see more elderly drivers taking refresher courses.

"There has been a lot of legislative changes and it is a confidence building course," said Mr Wellington, who was representing New Plymouth Age Concern.

"Sadly, the statistics show that there are more elderly drivers being involved in crashes, more being hurt and they take longer to recover."

Mr Wellington said keeping their independence was vital for older people and he hoped information about other options would show them there were other ways to get around. "We want to demonstrate to them the ways that they can keep safe and keep their independence."

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Joe Rodrigues, of Seniorcare, hoped the seminar would give older drivers an update on issues and information about how long they could continue to drive safely. "You can't let up, you have got to be alert and on the ball," said the 92-year-old, who is still driving.

"It's a part of life and we need to be active and transport is one of the main aspects of getting older and getting from A to B."

Mr Cunningham said the safety of older drivers had definitely become an issue. "We feel as though we have to do something about the issues and help them out."

He said roads were changing, cars were different and older drivers were getting involved in an increasing number of accidents.

- Taranaki Daily News

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