18 May 2018
Driving is a Privilege, Not a Right – By Interchange Australia Consultant, Suzanne Eustace
Driving is an important part of a person’s lifestyle and represents freedom and independence, especially in a rural area. It is a complex task involving physical ability, good vision, cognitive ability and emotional skills. Any loss of function or changes due to ageing, illness or injury may affect a person’s ability to drive safely. Sometimes people are not aware of changes in their ability to drive, and an outside professional (for example, a GP) has to make the difficult decision as to whether or not they can continue to do so.
It is your responsibility to ensure that you are medically fit to drive. The law requires that all licensed drivers are to report to the RMS any long-term or permanent medical conditions that are likely to affect your ability to drive safely.
If the RMS request a medical report from your treating doctor or specialist, it might lead to an Occupational Therapy driving assessment. This will determine if the medical condition impacts on your ability to drive safely and legally. The test involves an on-road and off-road assessment and can take up to 2 hours to complete. The cost for the assessment is not covered by the RMS, but private health insurance might cover some of it. The Occupational Therapist will give you immediate feedback on your ability to drive and write a report, which is then sent to the RMS Medical Unit.
The Occupational Therapist will make recommendations related to “fitness to drive.” It may be the case that no intervention is required, or that a person’s fitness to drive is dependent on certain conditions, for example: limited distance or daylight only. Sometimes, driving can require a particular vehicle modification, for example: a steering aid, hand controls or extended mirrors.
Driving enables some individuals to overcome isolation and allow them to re-engage in social activities and participate in the workforce. However, education is important in relation to driving whilst having a potentially fluctuating health condition. The need to be fit to drive is important to all those around us as well, as sometimes just a change in medication can cause variance in our ability to react to sudden changes in the road conditions.
Interchange Australia can help with transport for shopping, medical appointments and social activities to aid people with a disability and for those who are older, to reconnect with the community despite the loss of their driving licence.
For more information about our support services, please call us on 1300 112 334.