Driver medicals are examinations wherein someone who has suffered an injury or has a disability is assessed to determine their ability to safely operate a motor vehicle. The point of these tests is to get a professional determination about how well the individual can drive independently and whether or not any modifications are necessary for them to do so.
There are 3 possible outcomes for the majority of driver medicals. The outcome will determine the applicant’s legal status to operate a motor vehicle in the state or territory they reside in.
The 3 possible outcomes for driver medicals are as follows:
- Safe to use a motor vehicle without modification
- Safe to use a motor vehicle with specific modifications
- Is unsafe to use a motor vehicle until reassessment
Who needs to undergo these tests?
Driver medicals are designed to assess the ability of people who have a desire or need to operate a personal motor vehicle but also have an injury or disability that affects their motor function in some way. This could be someone with paralysis in a certain part of their body, someone who had a limb amputated or someone with a developmental or cognitive disability.
Any type of medical condition has the ability to impart someone’s ability to operate a car needs to be assessed before the individual can be allowed to have a licence and their own vehicle. This is so that society can stay protected from road accidents potentially caused by someone with a disability attempting to operate vehicle when they just can’t.
What are vehicle modifications?
Following a driver medical exam, the assessor may make recommendations about modifications that would help the individuals being assessed overcome their impairments. The modifications exist to either eliminate completely or mitigate the effect an impairment has on the ability to safely operate the vehicle at all time and at all speeds.
For example, some people with impairments in the free movement of their arms may benefit from a modification that install an assertive turning wheel over their standard steering wheel. This allows them to operate the vehicle with more control, mimicking the turning circle of a forklift.
Other modifications may not be essential but will make the person’s life easier when operating the vehicle. These types of modifications include mortised chair lifts that allow people in wheelchairs to easily get inside a vehicle without leaving their chair.
Sometimes the modification will be required for someone to drive and as such they can only operate a vehicle with the specific mix of modifications they are assigned. Without these modifications, it would be illegal for that person to attempt to drive as they would be putting the public at risk.
Why are these tests so important?
Driver medicals are important because, as part of a compassionate society, we believe that people with disabilities or permanent injuries should be supported and enabled to be as productive and self-sufficient as possible. Studies show that time and time again, people with disabilities or permanent injuries don’t want to be treated like infants – they want to live their own life as independently as possible and this includes operating a vehicle.
People who live with a disability or a permanent illness having the chance to prove themselves, and see how they can operate a vehicle, is one of the biggest confidence boosts they can get. Getting your licence is a big step in life for everyone, but its even bigger for someone who has a disability or permanent injury that inhibits them in other parts of their life.