More Kiwi seniors driving than under 35s - study

By Patrice Dougan, Heather McCracken

More senior Kiwis drive than under-35s. Photo / Getty
More senior Kiwis drive than under-35s. Photo / Getty

More Kiwi seniors are driving than 10 years ago, while more younger people are opting to be car-free.

A new survey shows the proportion of over 65s who drive has grown by about 10 per cent in the past decade to 91.4 per cent.

That equates to about 170,000 more senior motorists on the road, making over 65s the third largest bloc of road users, behind 35- to 49-year-olds and 50- to 64-year-olds.

The research by Roy Morgan shows seniors are now more likely than under 35s to drive.

"The decline in driving among younger people correlates to an increase in public transport usage," Roy Morgan general manager Pip Elliott said.

"For instance, in the year to August 2003, 25 per cent of all 25-34 year-olds travelled by bus within an average three months; in the year to August 2013, this had risen to 30 per cent."

At 105-years-old Bob Edwards is the oldest licensed driver in New Zealand.

He's been driving for 88 years, still loves it, and has no plans to give up.

The Ngataki pensioner said driving his car means he can keep his independence.

"I don't want to give anything up for my age," he said, "I want to do everything I've always done."

In his almost 90 years on the road, he has reportedly only been involved in one crash, and received just one speeding ticket.

Driving has been his life, taking the make-shift steering wheel of his uncle's car at the age of 15. The French model De Dion Bouton had "no steering wheel, only a bar".

Researcher Paul Young, 28, doesn't have a driver's licence and gets around central Wellington by bike, bus and walking.

He bikes or walks the roughly 2km trip to work, and says being car-free is becoming increasingly acceptable.

"I think I've noticed a change actually from early on. When I was at university there was quite a lot of peer pressure to get my licence," he said.

"Certainly now it's not as weird, and I know quite a few other people in the same boat."

Mr Young got his learner's licence 10 years ago, and says he may get his licence eventually, "but owning a car is something I would like to be able to avoid."

In all age groups except over 65s, the proportion of the population who drive has dropped over the past 10 years.

Nationwide there are now three million drivers, an increase of almost 400,000 over the past decade, but the overall proportion of drivers in the population has declined slightly to 84.3 per cent.

The youngest and oldest drivers cover the least distance on the roads, with drivers under 20 covering an average of 8100km a year, and drivers 70 and over travelling 9600km a year on average.

Those aged between 40 and 44 average 19,100km a year.

NZTA says older drivers drive conservatively, travel fewer kilometres and don't deliberately drive unsafely.

Senior drivers don't have as many crashes as younger drivers, but if involved in a crash are more likely to be seriously injured or killed because of their physical vulnerability.

Drivers must renew their licence at 75 and 80, and then every subsequent two years they must present a medical certificate each time. A doctor can also recommend they sit a 30-minute safety test. Information for older drivers is available at www.nzta.govt.nz.

The survey questioned more than 10,000 New Zealanders between September last year and August 2013.

- APNZ

- APNZ

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