RTA test's not tough enough says expert

Joseph Macri
Joseph Macri
Seeking help: Glenorie resident John Jenkins is appealing for fellow seniors within The Hills Council area to sign up for the driving pattern study. Picture: Natalie Roberts

Seeking help: Glenorie resident John Jenkins is appealing for fellow seniors within The Hills Council area to sign up for the driving pattern study. Picture: Natalie Roberts

ROAD safety is always a controversial topic, especially when it comes to young P-plate drivers.

But what about the other end of the spectrum. How do senior citizens fare on our roads?

To find out, the George Institute has prepared a study to monitor the driving patterns of older drivers in The Hills.

The problem is, however, the institute needs 380 volunteers and, so far, there's been a limited response from the community.

Glenorie resident John Jenkins shared his views on what it means to be a senior driver.

"I'm a Hornsby Shire resident and wasn't eligible for the study but I wanted to help in any way I could," Mr Jenkins said.

"From what I'm told this study looks at seniors' driving habits.

"Many seniors worry about losing their licence because their independence usually goes with it.

"There comes a time, though, when every senior has to recognise their own physical deterioration and when it makes them a driving risk."

The Australian-first study will have a black box installed in each subject's car which will track their speed, distance and driving patterns over 12 months.

The study is open to any driver above the age of 75 who lives in The Hills Council area.

George Institute researcher Lisa Keay said the information collected would help authorities better understand the mobility needs of older drivers.

"Little is known about the driving patterns of older Australians and we need comprehensive programs to help older people drive safely for longer," Dr Keay said.

¦ Details: 9657 0335 or lkeay@georgeinstitute.org.au.

CHERRYBROOK optometrist Joseph Macri (pictured right) worries that the RTA’s vision test is not stringent enough.

He argues it should also include peripheral vision testing, particularly for the elderly.

‘‘The RTA only check their [elderly] sight, I believe, once every 10 years,’’ Mr Macri said.

‘‘When you go for a driving test at the RTA, you can be blind in one eye and have tunnel vision in the other eye, which is glaucoma, and satisfy the RTA requirements, but if you have no side vision, it would be pretty dangerous to drive.’’

He shared an anecdote about a 70-year-old first-time eye patient who told him she wore two pairs of chemist glasses to see.

Mr Macri said unfortunately this was not an isolated incident and, worryingly, there were people driving on our roads who could only ‘‘see literally straight ahead’’.

On the other hand, he has one 90-year-old patient who is still able to see to drive.

Mr Macri said it was important to get tested every two years, especially once you reach 40, ‘‘to pick up sight-threatening diseases, such as glaucoma

and macular degeneration’’.