Editorial: For elderly driving is freedom

By Online Editor

Peter Bach - who was on our front page yesterday - sums it up nicely. The best thing about having a car is the freedom it gives him.

But as Eleanor Roosevelt said: With freedom comes responsibility.

Mr Bach, 78, appeared in a story accompanying our report on older drivers who have been forced off the road for safety reasons.

Already this year 19 elderly Rotorua drivers have been forced to take an on-road safety test, and more than half failed.

Police say older drivers are a priority area for road policing. There were 12 fatal and 49 serious crashes involving drivers aged 75-plus in the first six months of this year.

But there are poor drivers of all ages - I'm sure you've probably come across a few already today - and police admit older drivers are not in the same risk category as young drivers.

The loss of the right to drive for an older motorist could be devastating, especially out here in the regions, where there may be fewer public transport options.

Our recent story about 82-year-old Gavin Hayes, whose car was stolen and written off, gained national attention, and provides a good example.

"It has hit me hard," he told The Daily Post. "Without a car I am stuffed, absolutely stuffed."

He could no longer get to the shops or to town, visit his niece or his brother's grave.

But not being able to get to Taumarunui, where his wife is buried, hit him hardest.

The Automobile Association's Mike Noon said it was desirable to keep older motorists driving as long as they could do safely. "The loss of mobility, the loss of freedom for older drivers is really significant."

So taking away that mobility and freedom can never be done lightly. But safety is the key priority, for the driver themself and for others on the roads.

The benefits of being able to get around independently must be weighed against the risks brought on by age.

What do you think?

Email editor@dailypost.co.nz, text DP then your message to 021 241 4568, or write to editor, PO Box 1442, Rotorua.

- Rotorua Daily Post

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