Toughen up on driver tests

Headshot of Gavin Box
Gavin BoxGeraldton Guardian
Bob Hall near the red light camera at the intersection of North West Coastal Highway, Eastern Road and Johnston Street.
Camera IconBob Hall near the red light camera at the intersection of North West Coastal Highway, Eastern Road and Johnston Street. Credit: Gavin Box, The Geraldton Guardian

Re-testing drivers every 15 years — with the option of licence disqualification — is the bitter pill WA needs to take to save lives, a road safety campaigner says.

Geraldton Roadwise Committee chairman Bob Hall also says doctors should get tougher when testing the physical and mental capabilities of drivers older than 75.

He acknowledges his road safety ideas — including a zero blood alcohol limit for all drivers — are controversial.

On the latter, he argues even one glass can impair a driver’s capacity.

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On re-testing, he agrees it would affect many older drivers, but says it is the right thing to do, recalling the time he and his family encouraged his then-97-year-old father to hand over the car keys.

“People might arc up — nobody wants to take licences off people,” the 67-year-old said.

“I’m getting up towards that age, so it’s going to impact on me.

“It’s going to hurt, it’s going to be a bitter pill, but the fact is I would not have wanted my father to have been killed.

“The other problem is medicos are too willing to endorse people over the age of 75 because they know they need to get around.

“They do a few tests on vision and reaction times, but they’re not going through a simulated obstacle course with deviations, hazards and obstructions.”

Mr Hall said he was not picking on elderly drivers, adding he believed young drivers needed better education before they get behind the wheel.

“At the moment they answer a few questions, sit a driving test and they’re off and racing. It’s a licence to kill, so to speak,” he said.

But Mr Hall said some older drivers were impaired by physical limitations, such as early onset dementia, and were posing a danger to themselves and others.

“Experts need to consider what physical impediments seriously impact on your driving skills,” he said.

Mr Hall also wants laws tightened up on mobility scooter use, noting drivers deemed unfit to hold a car licence can steer a scooter.

“They can still make mistakes crossing the road or driving,” he said. “The Department of Transport and Main Roads have been very reticent for years to see politicians legislate against it, because they see it as the only means these people have of getting about.”

The WA Road Safety Council is seeking feedback on its discussion paper on a road safety strategy for the next decade. Have your say at imaginezero.rsc.wa.gov.au

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