The age distribution of New Zealand's population is changing. The ageing of 'baby boomers' means people over the age of 65 are expected to make up about 25% of the population from the late 2030s. Not only will there be more drivers, but these drivers will also drive more kilometres per year than previous generations, and will drive at older ages.
Medical care and technology has improved, meaning many older people are living longer and driving longer than a generation ago. This means that there is an increase in the number of drivers who will have medical conditions or are on strong medication.
Older drivers are more likely to be injured or die following a crash than younger people. Health problems including diminishing vision, physical and/or cognitive abilities can make driving more difficult and risky. For example, older drivers may find their night vision deteriorates, which leads to difficulty detecting and assessing hazards at night.
Older drivers are unlikely to have had any driver education for many years, meaning there may be gaps in general knowledge about the road code and new road rules.
Common older driver crash situations:
side–impact crashes at intersections – the side panels of cars are weak and this, combined with older road users' physical frailty, means the occupants are placed at greater risk of injury in this type of crash
fatigue-related crashes, especially when driving in the mid-afternoon
driver error, such as putting their foot on the accelerator instead of the brake
most driving fatalities among older adults occur in the daytime.
During 2012-16 senior road users (i.e. drivers, passengers, cyclists and pedestrians aged 75 and over) made up:
11% of fatalities
5% of all injuries.
In 2016, senior road users (75 years and over) accounted for:
The official New Zealand road code is a guide to New Zealand's traffic law and safe driving practices.
The NZ Transport Agency factsheets provide information on transport safety, standards and processes.
Know your way around roundabouts – there are clear rules in place for how you must signal and use lanes at roundabouts.
Supporting senior drivers – help your older friend or relative stay mobile safely. This booklet highlights some ways families and friends can help the older driver in their life to stay mobile safely.
Child restraints – If you transport your grandchildren in your vehicle you should be aware that adult safety belts are not sufficient to protect children from injury in crashes. Child restraints provide the additional protection needed and are required by law.
Mobility parking permit scheme (external link) – enables the permit holder to park conveniently close to their destination in accessible reserved parking spaces or park longer than the stated time in some standard car parks and metered spaces. If you qualify for a mobility permit, you will receive an orange card stamped with a membership number and expiry date. To qualify for a mobility permit, you must meet some set criteria.