• Maurice Williamson

Concerns raised about the impact of the new driver licensing regime on older drivers have been addressed by Transport Minister Maurice Williamson.

"We've listened to concerns expressed by the Automobile Association and other groups and decided we can respond to most of these.

"With a system revamp of this magnitude it was inevitable that some operational issues would need to be modified and we believe the elderly are one such area."

One concern was elderly drivers who let their paper licence lapse on its expiry at age 71 and did not enter the previous older driver licensing system to maintain their licence status.

"I agree it was unfair for them to have to sit a novice driver test as if they had never been licensed. I've agreed with the Director of Land Transport Safety that they need only sit a full licence theory test and older driver practical test which can be done on the same day."

Concerns have also been expressed at the increased difficulty of the older driver practical test.

"This has been introduced purely for road safety reasons and will continue to be used. However, after discussing this with the Director of Land Transport Safety, he has reminded testing officers that it is within his powers to grant licences with conditions such as being restricted to driving during daylight."

Mr Williamson said it would not always be possible for everyone to retain a form of limited licence, but it would enable a number of older drivers to retain their mobility without compromising road safety.

The inability of agents to accept bookings over the telephone has caused difficulties for some people having to travel long distances, said Mr Williamson.

"I accept this and expect the Land Transport Safety Authority will identify a process that will enable a telephone booking system to be introduced."

Mr Williamson said another major concern of older drivers had been the costs of obtaining a licence.

"Every effort was made to keep the fees down, but it's important to realise that older drivers have different licensing requirements to other drivers and the fees simply cover the costs of the older driver regime.

"It's important to remember the benefits, beyond the safety ones, for older drivers. They renew their licences every two years after the age of 80, instead of annually after the age of 76."

Mr Williamson said, taking the costs of medicals into account, older drivers were better off at every stage of the new system.

"Apart from a few teething problems and the need for a few modifications, I believe the new regime is working extremely well by deterring serious traffic offenders from our roads and correcting the vision of almost 5000 drivers."