Development of a national licence assessment program for older drivers in Australasia

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Brian Fildes

Licensing requirements for older drivers in Australasia are varied, with no available evidence that the different assessment procedures have safety benefits. In 1996 the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration in the USA embarked on the development of a national older driver screening and evaluation program for that country. In 1998 Australian and New Zealand transport jurisdictions funded a similar project to develop and trial an appropriate procedure for use in Australasia, to be conducted by the Monash University Accident Research Center. A model re-licensing procedure was detailed in 2000, following input from key experts and stakeholders in Australia and New Zealand. Components of the model include: assessment to target only functionally impaired older drivers; development of a network of community referral centers; use of multi-tiered assessment procedures and instruments; use of a case officer to assist older people through the assessment process; use of re-training and rehabilitation procedures wherever appropriate; and the licensing authority's role to include counseling on alternative mobility option, if appropriate. During 2001, further research and development activities included: (1) a pilot study of the main processes underpinning the model was conducted in Tasmania, to test the acceptability of the model to older drivers, referral agencies and to licensing officers; and (2) a validation study of possible screening instruments to be used in assessment of fitness to drive, is presently being conducted in New Zealand. This paper reports on findings from the pilot and validation studies, as well as giving an overview of the licensing model.

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