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Byron Shire
February 25, 2021

Mother’s fight for justice: Changing laws for elderly drivers

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Most Saturday mornings Susan Jenkins can be found sitting in front of the Bunnings at South Tweed Heads asking locals to sign a petition that goes to the very core of her being.

In October 2016 Mrs Jenkins lost her 22-year-old son, Dann, when an elderly man ploughed into the motorbike he was riding.

Despite having recently been cleared by an optometrist to drive without glasses, the 87-year-old driver, Edwin Jessop, did not see the young man coming on a relatively clear stretch of road.

It was later found that the octogenarian did indeed need assistance with his vision.

Mr Jessop was convicted of negligent driving occasioning death and received a nine-month suspended sentence (due to his age) and a three-year driving suspension.

Ms Jenkins and Dann’s father Gary Jenkins were not satisfied with the sentence.

But they were far more dissatisfied with the laws which allowed Mr Jessop to be driving without glasses in the first place.  

‘This has got to stop,’ Ms Jenkins said.

‘The systems in both NSW and Queensland are inadequate. Even in NSW [the state with the toughest elderly driving laws] they’re not driver tested in NSW until they’re 85… I mean, by the age of 85 Elvis has left the building.’

She is calling for drivers over 75 to undertake a mandatory simulator test to ensure their reaction and response times are up to scratch.

‘We also want an eye test conducted by an optometrist – not just an eye-chart on a doctor’s wall.  And it needs to test peripheral vision,’ she said.

‘And we also want a test for dementia. Currently people with alzheimer’s can drive.  

There are currently more than a million drivers in Australia over the age of 75 and that figure is set to increase dramatically as the population ages.

Recent figures show older people are involved in one fifth of all deadly crashes, and that proportion is increasing.

In 2016 there were 215 fatal accidents where one driver was over the age of 65, 30 crashes more than in 2008, according to the Bureau of Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Economics.

But not everyone agrees that the laws should be tightened.

Many older people are, not surprisingly, reluctant to give up their driving privileges or to submit to a tougher testing regime.

Being unable to drive has a significant impact on older people’s independence and their opportunities for social interaction and community participation.

Ms Jenkins acknowledges this, but believes the need to save lives is more important.

‘The last photo I have of Dann is him lying on the road with a white sheet over him,’ she says.

‘I don’t want that to happen to another young person and to see another mother’s life being ripped apart in the way my life has.’

Her goal is to get 10,000 signatures on paper in both NSW and Queensland, something which would force political leaders in both states to discuss the issue in parliament.

To sign the online petition, visit https://tih2ho.wixsite.com/dann.  

 


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13 COMMENTS

  1. One bad apple in a barrel does not make all apples bad. But Susan Jenkins with her petition says that is the case. Just because on person over 75 was belligerent, ignorant and antisocial enough to be immoral to not apply commonsense to the way he drove then all people cannot be applied over 75 just because one person drives nan irresponsible way
    To ban a certain section of the population t is to discriminate against older people over 75.
    To discriminate against a minority then brings in a minefield of discrimination.
    We then can discriminate against young drivers. Ban them from the roads as they cause accidents.
    We can discriminate against women drivers as they cause accidents.
    We can discriminate against drivers as they cause accidents.
    We can discriminate against married drivers as they cause accidents.
    We can discriminate against unmarried drivers because they cause accidents.
    We can discriminate against mobile phone users as they cause accidents.
    If we do all that then we can stop all drivers and cars and ban them from the roads and we will stop accidents and deaths on the roads.
    All we will stop human life in its tracks as we have rid the roads of minorities.

    • Maybe the test in the driving simulator is not such a bad idea. But why not extend it to all drivers? There are some drivers well under 75 who shouldn’t be on the road.

    • Errr Jimbo, sorry mate but you may need to have your glasses checked…

      The article clearly says that it is not a ban that is being sought but rather a test for people at an age when their eyesight could be deteriorating.

      We can wish we are all Peter Pan’s driving right up to our own deathbed, or we can accept that we humans are fancy animals that deteriorate with age and therefore should be forced to have someone independent stop and check to see how we are, if we are going hurtle through public spaces in a heavy vehicle capable of great damage.

      Not discriminating – just discerning who should be able to wield potentially deadly force.

      Perhaps this is a case of the gentleman doth protest a too much ?

  2. Try driving in and around Ballina for a day to see the effects of age on many elderly peoples driving ability.
    At least once a week I need to take evasive action in the area. (keep clear of roundabouts) As late as yesterday an elderly lady pulled out in front of me without looking, I was 6 inches from ramming her car and she had no idea of what had just transpired. Not all elderly drivers are incapable but there are a lot more than you think. If the inconvenience of taking a once a year driving ability test saves your child’s life, isn’t it worth it?

  3. My heart genuinely goes out to Mr and Mrs Jenkins.

    However,
    “We also want an eye test conducted by an optometrist – not just an eye-chart on a doctor’s wall. And it needs to test peripheral vision,’ she said.”
    But
    “Despite having recently been cleared by an optometrist to drive without glasses . . . . . ”
    would indicate the driver was tested by more than “just an eye-chart on a doctor’s wall”.

    Also, genuine question:
    I wonder whether of the “elderly drivers involved in one fifth of all deadly crashes”, how many of the elderly drivers were the ones killed. Thinking it through, even a reasonably fit greater-than-75-year-old would have a far greater chance of not surviving than, say, a fit, 25-year-old male in a major crash. In addition, that (one fifth) figure does not spell out the percentage of elderly drivers at fault in that statistic.

    Finally, the mandatory simulator test:
    Doing the numbers:
    Say 100 simulators set up around the country (probably a generous number);
    1,000,000 over-75s to be tested (and that figure not including drivers having to resit the test);
    Say around 20 minutes per test, over 250 working days a year, with full bookings every day;
    So an absolute maximum of 25 tests per simulator per day equals 6,250 tests per simulator per year;
    Multiplied by 100 simulators equals a maximum of625,000 tests per year, not allowing for no-shows for the test.

    All the above figures are generous, but sadly the numbers just do not stack up.

    Finally, a moral: Don’t forget Jack Weinberg – the firebrand who, at the age of 24, coined the phrase “Don’t trust anyone over 30” at the height of the activism of the 60s . . . . . with his 30th birthday subsequently widely and duly noted across the media.

  4. The biggest cause of accidents is poor roads.
    Young drivers are the most accident-prone.
    It is unreasonable to target older drivers.
    Teach all kids to drive properly at school would be the best improvement.
    Driving a car is probably the most vital thing you can learn yet it is not taught in our hopeless government-run education disaster. Education is still in the dark ages. Wrong things taught to the wrong kids at the wrong time.

  5. Jimbo, Susan Jenkins is not asking for a ban on drivers over 75. She is asking for propper tests to make sure drivers over 75 are still fit to drive safely. It is very reasonable and will definitely save lives, one of which might be yours.

  6. I am very sorry that this young man lost his life through such circumstances. In a perfect world there would be no road deaths, no-one making mistakes and no need for people to reach for unreasonable solutions.
    Is M’s Jenkins aware that the majority of traffic accidents and deaths are caused by males aged 18-35? What does she suggest be done about that?

  7. Decades ago In the UK I was advised that I needed glasses for driving but that was many years ago and in longer vision my eyes have improved since then to the extent that I can see pretty well without driving glasses. It is my eyesight at 1 metre and under that is a problem.

    When I first got my NSW Driving Licence in 2005 I declared that I needed glasses and that was put on my licence.

    More recently the Police stopped me and asked why I was not wearing glasses. I replied that I had been able to pass the NSW eye test which is very basic. Unfortunately I had only asked for the eye test in the minutes after my last licence was issued so It still was marked with the wear glasses requirement.

    He didn’t book me but advised I had the requirement removed from my Licence. I then went and got the RMS eye test and they removed the requirement on the licence as I easily passed.

    Now I know that my eyesight is slightly better with driving glasses and I usually wear them anyway BUT RMS believe me to be good enough to drive without glasses.

    The test is rudimentry and a joke and I was told truck drivers are tested each eye individually where as ordinary drivers are tested both eyes together.
    In my case I know one eye is pretty good at distance and the other one better when close up.

    As a Motorcyclist myself I certainly agree that all drivers of all ages should be tested at regular intervals and in a more comprehensive manner such as testing peripheral vision and to the standard of truck drivers as a minimum.

    Only 2 days ago I witnessed an accident in Mullum where one car drove into the side of another car mid afternoon at a large crossroads presumably because the driver at fault did not see the car slightly to their left but almost straight ahead in front of them on impact.

    Had that been a motorcycle that was hit, then it could have been a very serious accident for the rider.

  8. Tragic circumstances. However we place extreme restrictions on the young and on drink drivers. Why? Because they are impaired. Surely the same logic applies to the Seniors. It’s not about stopping them driving, it’s about addressing any impairment issues.

  9. The high death rate from crashes involving older people relates to older people’s greater vulnerability to mortality from injuries that would not kill a younger person. The evidence overwhelmingly shows younger drivers cause more accidents and this is reflected in the higher insurance premiums young drivers face. Reducing the high speeds of drivers, particularly younger drivers, is a far greater priority in reducing deaths than targetting a group of drivers who cause relatively few crashes.

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