Lady copper earns rebuke

Gotta strike a blow for elderly people tonight and shout enthusiastic support for the Age Concern national president Liz Baxendine. Way to go, Liz.

Her hackles were raised by a Rolleston policewoman’s criticism of older drivers and doctors after an older woman’s “minor” car accident. She described the lady copper’s remarks as “inappropriate”.

Maybe the accident was not too minor. The elderly motorist did plough through six suburban fences.

But hey. Give her a break. It could have been Alf’s mum.

Increasing numbers of older people are driving, but they’re facing ageist attitudes, Baxendine contends.

“When an older person has a car accident, there’s a lot of jumping to conclusions,” Age Concern’s Liz Baxendine says. “Even before all the facts are known, there can be an assumption that they’re at fault and they must be incapable, simply because of their age.

“Anyone can make a mistake or become unwell behind the wheel, but some seniors’ accidents get sensationalist coverage.”

Older drivers are really put under a microscope, Baxendine pointed out.

“They already have to renew their licences at age 75, 80 and then every two years after that. This includes a medical certificate confirming they’re safe to drive.

“We think this is working well. If doctors have any concerns about their driving, they can put restrictions on the medical certificate or refer patients for specialist assessments.

“However, we’re concerned that older drivers alone face extra costs to maintain a driving licence,” Liz Baxendine says. “These can be a real burden on a group that has one of the lowest accident rates.”

She brought statistisics to bear on the argument: in 2008, the driver was aged 75 or older in just 4.4 percent of accidents that resulted in injury or death.

“Older drivers have a lifetime of safe driving practices behind them; they’re less likely to drink and drive and more likely to wear seat belts. However, because older people are less strong, they’re more likely to be injured in accidents and take longer to recover.”

Constable Lois Williscroft made her remarks after an 82-year-old woman lost control of her car on a bend and drove through six fences.

No one was hurt, although the woman was taken to hospital for observation.

Ms Williscroft took the woman’s licence off her, the ODT reports.

“She thought I was being a bit harsh, but I said to her `imagine if there were children playing on the lawn. If you had killed a child, I wouldn’t be just taking your licence’.”

Ms Williscroft told The Press that general practitioners should be more vigilant in taking driver’s licences off elderly patients who were incapable of driving in a safe manner.

“I know it’s hard because it takes away their independence, but if they are not capable of driving, they are not capable of driving.

“She is just so, so lucky she wasn’t hurt, and there wasn’t someone in any of the front yards.”

Alf notes that nobody paid much attention to the age of the truck driver involved in a recent accident involving a truck driver.

The driver was killed after his vehicle went off the road and plunged into Lake Taupo.

The incident happened about 11.30am on State Highway 1 near Bulli Point, about 30km south-west of Taupo.

The driver, whose name has not yet been released, was the sole occupant.

Senior Sergeant Fane Troy said it appeared the truck had been going too fast around a right-hand corner, which was sign-posted with an advisory speed of 25kmh.

It was hard to say what speed the vehicle was travelling at, he said.

However, it caused the truck to tip over the road barrier and drop about 70m into the lake.

The driver was aged 23.

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