For most people, being able to drive a vehicle is a very important part of their daily life - for maintaining social contact, for getting to and from work and for accessing their everyday needs such as goods and services. Driving may be an essential part of some people’s jobs.
Everyone has a responsibility to ensure that they are fit to drive, so speak to your doctor if you are concerned about your ability to drive safely.
Certain health conditions can affect your ability to drive safely, either in the short term or more permanently.
Illnesses which affect safe driving
Various health conditions can affect your ability to drive safely, for example:
- Blackouts or fainting.
- Vision problems.
- Heart disease.
- Sleep disorders.
- Psychiatric disorders.
- Neurological disorders.
- Age-related decline.
Usually this won’t mean that you can’t drive at all, but you may need to see your doctor more often, or you might need to restrict your driving.
Health and driving rules
Your doctor provides advice about how your particular health condition might affect your ability to drive safely and how it might be managed. Your doctor checks your physical and psychological health and also refers to a book of medical standards called 'Assessing Fitness to Drive'. You can view 'Assessing Fitness to Drives' at www.austroads.com.au
Roads and Maritime Services (replacing Roads and Traffic Authority) makes the final decision about your licence status. They will consider the advice of your doctor as well as other factors such as your accident history and the type of vehicle you drive (for example a truck, car or a public passenger vehicle).
The law requires you to report to Roads and Maritime Services (RMS) any permanent or long-term injury or illness that may impair your ability to drive safely. If you are involved in a crash and it is found that your health condition was a contributing factor, you may be prosecuted and your insurance may not be valid.
Your doctor will provide you with advice about your ability to drive safely as well as a letter or report to take to RMS. Your doctor may also notify RMS directly if he or she feels your condition poses a significant threat to public safety.
Many temporary conditions will prevent you from driving. For example, following an anaesthetic your doctor will advise you not to drive for 24 hours or more. An injury, such as a broken leg may also prevent you from driving. In these situations, your doctor will advise you about the need to restrict your driving in the short term. In most cases your licence status will not be affected and you will not need to report to RMS.
A conditional licence means that you may continue to drive as long as certain conditions or restrictions are met. Conditions may include driving during daylight hours, the wearing of corrective lenses when driving, or attending your doctor for a periodic review and providing a report to RMS. If you are issued with a conditional licence, it is your responsibility to comply with any driving restrictions or other conditions and to be reviewed by your doctor as required.
Drivers of trucks, public passenger vehicles and vehicles carrying dangerous goods must meet higher medical standards because of the demands of their work, the extensive hours spent on the road and the serious consequences likely to result from a crash. If you have an illness that is likely to impact on your ability to drive safely, it is important to tell your doctor what sort of vehicle you drive. It may be that with treatment and regular review you will be able to continue to drive on a conditional licence. A person who does not meet the health requirements to drive a commercial vehicle may still be eligible to drive a private vehicle.
Drivers with dementia
The progressive and irreversible loss of mental functioning caused by dementia creates issues for driver safety. All drivers with dementia will likely face a situation where their condition deteriorates to the point that they will no longer be considered medically fit to drive. If you are a driver with dementia it is important that you regularly consult with your doctor about how dementia affects your ability to drive safely.
By talking with doctors, family, friends and carers about driving issues as early as possible after diagnosis, drivers with dementia can make the difficult transition away from driving an easier process. It is important to talk about any problems experienced whilst driving and what your transport needs might be to help determine when it might be the right time to stop driving.
Drivers with epilepsy
Private vehicle drivers will normally only be considered for a conditional licence if they have been seizure free for a period of one year. Commercial vehicle drivers need to have been seizure free for ten years. Some exceptions may be considered in certain situations (e.g. first seizure, childhood seizures, sleep only seizures). There are also some allowances for special cases based on the advice of a specialist in epilepsy.
Drivers with monocular vision
Persons with monocular vision are not eligible to hold an unconditional licence. Private vehicle drivers with monocular vision may be considered for a conditional licence, subject to two-yearly review, if the vision standards are met. Commercial vehicle drivers with monocular vision may be considered for a conditional licence, subject to annual review, taking into account the nature of the driving task and information provided by an ophthalmologist or optometrist.
Commercial vehicle drivers with hearing loss
Commercial vehicle drivers are subject to a hearing standard. There are allowances for drivers with congenital or childhood hearing loss.
NSW Photo Card
If you give up driving for a medical reason and surrender a current NSW driver licence you are entitled to your first NSW Photo Card for a no fee.
The NSW photo card is an identification card that has the same proof of identity requirements and security features as a NSW Driver Licence.
Safety of a friend/relative
If you know of licence holders whose health might be affecting their ability to drive safely, it is important to get them to talk to their doctor.
For further enquiries phone 13 22 13 8.30am-5pm Mon-Fri and 8.30am-2pm Sat-Sun.