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Are you still fit to drive?

Last Updated at November 17th 2021
Having the ability to drive when you are older can be important for getting to your medical appointments, seeing friends, going to social events, or visiting your local shops. But driving can become more difficult as you age and it is important to know when you should step back from behind the wheel.

Key points:

  • Conditions can develop as you age that can impact your ability to drive safely

  • You are always required to update your road authority about any new medical conditions or disabilities that affect your driving

  • Signs you are no longer fit to drive include issues focusing on the road, getting into car crashes often, or family commenting on your poor driving

Older person driving a car
If driving is important to you, there are things you can do as an older person to ensure you can continue to drive. [Source: Shutterstock]

As you age, reduced vision and hearing, mobility and reflexes, and other health conditions may impact your ability to drive and statistics show that older drivers are at a higher risk of being involved in accidents.

Driving requires focus, good reflexes, and an understanding of road rules and how to follow them. If your health is impacting you physically or cognitively, then you may need to put away the keys.

In every State and Territory, there are different rules around driving after you turn 70 which you should be aware of to keep your driving licence.

What can impact your driving

Vision and mobility are the two biggest problems facing older drivers and their ability to drive safely and well.

For instance, older people often find it harder to see in the dark and require more light so driving at night can be dangerous; older eyes can struggle to focus or take longer to focus; some colours are harder to see - like the colour red; and an older person's depth perception weakens, making it difficult to guess how fast a car is travelling.

If you have reduced mobility, moving to look over your shoulder for traffic or turning the wheel may be a struggle.

Some conditions that can be considered a medical reason for you to not be fit to drive, include arthritis and joint conditions, any form of dementia, heart conditions, diabetes, epilepsy, poor eyesight that cannot be corrected with glasses or other corrective lenses, sleep disorders, or stroke.

Of course, it depends on the level of severity of these conditions and how they impact your driving.

Keep in mind, all drivers are required to report changes in medical conditions or disability to the road authority of your State or Territory.

Staying fit to drive

If driving is important to you, there are things you can do to ensure you can continue to drive as long as possible.

Being able to drive provides a lot of freedom and independence, which is why you should try to maintain a healthy lifestyle that can assist you in continuing to drive.

Being in good health can have a direct impact on your ability to drive safely. For instance, you should be maintaining a healthy diet, drinking plenty of water, and getting a good night's sleep.

You should be having regular checkups for your eyesight so your prescription glasses or corrective lenses are as current as possible.

Make sure you have a regular exercise routine that focuses on your flexibility and strength, this can help maintain the skills you need to drive well and safely.

Lastly, if you are taking medication or about to start taking new medication, ensure that it doesn't affect your ability to drive. Sometimes, medication can impact your reaction time, make you drowsy, or inhibit your decision making abilities.

When it is no longer safe to drive

If you believe you have reached a point of it being too unsafe for you to drive, then you will need to contact your State or Territory driver licensing authority and ask them to cancel your licence.

Signs that you should not drive include:

  • More damage to your vehicle than normal

  • Frequent car crashes, big or small

  • Issues focussing on the road

  • You are honked by other drivers often

  • People have commented on your poor driving

You will need to look at other options for transport now that you cannot drive yourself. This could include public transport, help from family and friends, or transport through a service provider. You can read more about community transport options or home care services that provide transport support on the Aged Care Guide.

Here is a breakdown of medically fit to drive regulations by State and Territory:

Australian Capital Territory (ACT)

When you renew your licence, you will need to have a vision acuity assessment when you turn 50, 60, 65, 70, and 75, and then once a year after 75. This test can be completed by health professionals, optometrist, or visiting an Access Canberra Service Centre.

If you're over 70 and hold an ACT public vehicle licence, like a taxi or bus, you will need to provide a commercial medical assessment and a passed driving assessment for that specific vehicle once a year.

No matter the licence you hold, over the age of 75 you need to provide a medical assessment from a doctor once a year.

New South Wales (NSW)

In NSW, you are required to undertake an annual medical assessment, including an eyesight test, once you turn 75.

When you turn 85, you are required to do a practical driving assessment with either an accredited driving assessor or at a service centre, or you can switch to a modified licence.

A modified licence means you can drive to your local shops, community activities or appointments, but have reduced capacity to drive longer distances. The distance you drive will be different if you live in regional NSW, where services can be a bit further away. A modified licence does require a medical assessment once a year.

Northern Territory (NT)

The Northern Territory does not base driving requirements on a person's age but on their behaviour and medical fitness to drive.

All drivers in the NT are required to pass a vision test on a five-yearly basis and a medical assessment only occurs if a medical professional notifies the Registrar of Motor Vehicles that they believe an older person may not be fit to drive, either for a physical or mental incapability.

Additionally, if you declare that you have a disability or medical condition, then you will be required to do a medical assessment.

Queensland (QLD)

If you are 75 and over, you are required to have a medical certificate stating you are fit to drive and you need to carry this certificate with you at all times while driving. You can be fined for not having this medical certificate with you.

You will need to review your medical certificate once a year to continue driving on your licence. Usually, a doctor will provide you with a medical certificate that covers you for 13 months, giving you an extra month to get a new certificate.

South Australia (SA)

You only need to submit a certificate of fitness to drive if you have had a recorded medical condition, which needs ongoing review, or if you are 70 or over and drive a vehicle that is not a car, like a heavy vehicle or motorbike.

A medical professional will need to complete part of the form and if you have a medical condition, a specialist will need to provide a letter about your fitness to drive.

If you are 75 and over and have not had any recorded medical condition, you will need to complete an annual self-assessment of your fitness to drive. You can complete your self-assessment on your mySA GOV account or fill out the form and email it to servicesa@sa.gov.au.

Tasmania (TAS)

In 2011, Tasmania changed its rules so you no longer need to complete an annual driving assessment if you are aged 85 and older.

It is up to the driver to determine if they are medically fit to drive. However, your GP can recommend that you do a driving assessment if they have concerns about your driving.

Victoria (VIC)

Similar to Tasmania and the Northern Territory, it is up to the driver to determine if you are still medically fit to drive.

It is your responsibility to monitor your health for any changes that could impact your driving and notify VicRoads if you develop a disability or medical condition that could impact your driving.

You may be required to do a medical review if someone notifies VicRoads with concerns about your driving.

Western Australia (WA)

When you turn 80, you will need to undertake an annual medical assessment before renewing your licence.

This medical assessment includes a medical examination with your GP and to complete a medical assessment certificate senior driver's licence renewal declaration.

If your GP is still concerned about your ability to drive, you may need to undertake a practical driving assessment.

Generally, mandatory practical driving assessments are not required of drivers 85 and over unless their GP recommends it.

What is your favourite thing about driving? Tell us in the comments below.

Related content:

Transport around your community and home
Commonwealth Home Support Programme (CHSP)
What is a Home Care Package (HCP)?

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