Older motorists and their families should be on watch for the first signs of a fading grip on safe driving, Victoria’s Transport Accident Commission (TAC) has warned.
TAC chief Janet Dore said this week that while age should not be seen as a barrier to driving, older drivers must be prepared to adapt to their changing circumstances.
"In our experience, older drivers are very good at picking up on the signs that they may not be as safe behind the wheel as they once were and, in most cases, they will self-regulate," Ms Dore said.
"That could mean deciding not to drive at night or not driving at peak hour when traffic conditions are more complex to navigate."
This follows the release of a study last year by the Centre for Accident Research and Road Safety Queensland (CARRS-Q), which found that self-regulation is the best course of action for older drivers, with many already vigilant in monitoring their health and adapting their driving habits accordingly.
But, while many are managing their own needs, more older drivers each year are failing compulsory medical assessments and losing their licence as a result.
Over 21,000 motorists aged over 71 had their licence suspended or cancelled in Victoria during the last financial year, marking an increase on the 19,745 figure of the previous year.
Ms Dore warned, however, that this is due more to the growing number of older drivers on the road, rather than any significant change to policy or testing procedures.
Ms Dore said that their decades of experience is a strength for older motorists, and they are less likely to take risks than younger drivers.
"One of the main reasons for the elderly being over-represented in road trauma is that their bodies are frail, meaning relatively minor impacts can result in hospitalisation."
Motorists aged over 70 accounted for 48 of the 243 road fatalities registered in 2014, while those aged 21 to 25 made up 31 deaths in the annual toll.
But, while the younger group represented a 41 percent increase on the year before, the number of motorists over 70 years old killed on the road had fallen by 32 percent in 2014.