Elderly drivers face restrictions

The Age

Friday 23 April 2004

Tens of thousands of elderly motorists will be restricted to three-year licences under an overhaul of road safety laws.

Ten-year licences, now available to all motorists, will be scrapped for over 75s under changes to be introduced this year by the State Government.

The Government also backed a proposal to require Melburnians who own four-wheel-drive and other vehicles fitted with a bullbar to get a permit. Such a permit would come at a cost and would require changes to road laws.

A publicity campaign highlighting the dangers that bullbars pose to pedestrians and other road users is also likely.

Transport Minister Peter Batchelor announced the controversial moves as he delivered the Government response to last year's parliamentary road safety committee report on older drivers. He said it was "a bit inappropriate" for people aged 75 and older to get a 10-year driver's licence. "Asking older people . . . to self-assess whether they continue driving every three years will make it safer for them, it will make it safer for all other drivers," Mr Batchelor said.

Motorists over 75 who already have a 10-year licence will not be forced on to a three-year licence.

The Government says people over 65 account for 13 per cent of the population, but 19 per cent of road deaths.

VicRoads will encourage doctors to use a standard test to assess whether over 80s are capable of driving and research will be done on the risks of older drivers.

One project will look at the distances travelled by older people, one will look at the alcohol and other drugs and another will look at visual and cognitive impairment.

Mr Batchelor said he expected older motorists to assess their ability to drive, in collaboration with family, friends and possibly doctors. The Government wanted older motorists to remain independent and mobile, he said.

The Council On The Ageing said the restriction was an over-reaction based on ageism.

"It reinforces the perception in the community that older people are bad drivers. (But) they're cautious drivers, they're the ones who stick to the speed limit," council Victorian executive director Sue Hendy said.

About 167,000 people with a valid Victorian driver's licence are 75 or over. Next year, about 40,000 drivers over 75 will be due to renew their licences.

Car makers aim for a bullbar on every car

The Age

Friday 23 April 2004

By Andrew Webster


Not only are Melbourne's four-wheel-drives and weekend utes sprouting bullbars in ever greater numbers - the vehicle accessory with attitude is becoming increasingly common on a wider range of vehicles.

Vince Failla, co-owner of Melbourne's largest fitter of bullbars, TJM Megastore in Coburg, says vehicle makers now cater for virtually every 4WD and ute on the market and are expanding into bars for vans and sedans.

Mr Failla says the bullbar business in Melbourne alone is worth millions a year. He says changing lifestyles are persuading customers that they and their vehicles need extra protection.

"A lot of people are adventuring in Australia," he says. "Maybe they use their vehicle around town for 80 to 90 per cent of the time and then for the kids' holiday they drive out to the country."

Commuters on the urban fringe, wary of night collisions with wildlife, are big customers.

So are operators of small commercial vehicles who want to cut down on the cost of daily bumps.

But increasingly drivers of ordinary cars are fitting bullbars - usually small loops of steel to shield bumpers.

"A lot of people fit them for car park knocks and scrapes," Mr Failla says.

"You touch a bumper and it can cost you $2000 to replace the whole unit. An approved, air-bag-compliant bullbar fitted to a sedan is $450."