New Zealand's aging drivers
13 Jan 2010
New Zealand’s oldest driver - who clocks in at 104 - is older than the first Model T motorcar that rolled off Henry Ford’s production line and she’s in good company.
Ellen Noy from Kaiapoi near Christchurch in the South Island still lives independently and uses her car to go shopping or for "short little runs" around her home town to play cards or croquet.
And while she might sound like an exception, at 104 Mrs Noy shares New Zealand roads with a surprising number of other well experienced, senior drivers.
Transport agency figures
Figures just released from the New Zealand Transport Agency show that nearly 4000 of the 3.2 million licensed drivers on Kiwi roads are 90 or over.
And of those, seven drivers are more than 100 years of age.
Mrs Noy has been driving for about 50 years and has managed to keep a spotless driving record.
"I'm not nervous driving. I keep alert. I've never had an accident or been picked up by the police. They have always said, when I have gone for a driving test, I was a good driver," she said.
Mrs Noy drives a Toyota Starlet with no power steering but reckons it gives her arms a good workout.
"If I don't get a straight run into a park, I have trouble getting out. So I have to use my noodle," she said.
Although she used to drive further afield, Mrs Noy says she now sticks to short trips in her home town because "there's a lot of silly drivers around now."
Asked about the criticism often levelled at elderly drivers as hazards on the road, Mrs Noy said: "Well, perhaps some people. I don't know really. I know the young ones are just too fast. They don't slow down when they should. Everybody is in a hurry."
Driving since 1946
Mrs Noy is determined to carry on driving as long as she can, as is 92-year-old June Burr of Mosgiel near Dunedin.
Mrs Burr has held a driver’s licence for 60 years, has driven in a number of countries. Since passing her test in the South Island town of Fairlie in 1946, Mrs Burr has sat and passed driving tests in England, Pakistan, Canada, Singapore and the United States.
She is one of 261 female drivers of her age in New Zealand and joins an increasing number of older drivers on Kiwi roads.
Once a driver turns 75 in New Zealand, their new licence is valid for between two and five years and they are required to present a medical certificate each time.
Statistics show that the number of license-holders dramatically increase as the drivers get younger, with those aged 40 to 44 making up the largest group in New Zealand.
At 335,161 of those, it suggests an ever-increasing number of older drivers on the roads are just around the corner.
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