Helping stroke survivors navigate the medical standards for licensing
If you’re a stroke survivor wondering about stroke-specific medical standards for licensing, you’ve come to the right place. It can be a tricky area to navigate, particularly when you’ve been told you need a Fitness to Drive or OT Driving Assessment and you’re not sure what’s involved and why.
Let me take you through the national medical licensing standards specific to your situation and explain what they mean to you. I’ll also go through the changes implemented in June 2022 and what this means in practice.
Medical standards for licencing
Austroads is the national body supporting the delivery of efficient, reliable and safe road transport in Australia and New Zealand. Their goal is to make driving safer and more reliable for all users. They outline the medical standards for driver licensing used by Australian health professionals and driver licensing authorities.
Austroads recognises that driving is a complicated task that involves good vision, physical capacity and cognitive ability. Driver health and fitness to drive are therefore important factors to take into account when considering the safety of all Australians on our roads.
The national driver medical standards Assessing Fitness to Drive outline the medical criteria for safe driving including the management of drivers who’ve suffered a stroke.
Before June 2022
As an OT or allied health professional, I have the duty of care to tell you if a permanent or long-term illness, disability, medical condition or injury may affect your ability to drive safely and legally. This standard hasn’t changed.
Any health professional is required by law to inform a person who’s suffered a stroke that they are not allowed to drive for a period of four weeks after having the stroke. After the four-week period, they could see their neurologist or GP to get a medical clearance to get back behind the wheel. However, in many cases there was no clarity about what to do after the four weeks.
After June 2022
The updated guidelines enable you to plan your return to driving before the end of the four-week period. It means more clarity for you and a smoother transition to driving if you’re considered to have the ability to drive safely.
Your doctor can make a recommendation for what needs to happen after the four weeks, which helps with planning. You can expect one of the following recommendations:
- You can return to driving straight away after four weeks of driving restriction with a pre-clearance from your doctor or neurologist.
- You have cognitive and/or physical impairments that impact your ability to drive safely and you need to have an OT Driving Assessment before considering returning to driving.
How do I manage returning to driving after a stroke?
Once your doctor or neurologist has given you a recommendation, you can start planning accordingly. You’ll find helpful information on the Stroke Foundation’s Enable Me website, set up specifically to help you with your own stroke recovery.
If you need a Fitness to Drive or OT Driving Assessment, you can start looking for a suitable Driver-Trained Occupational Therapist and make a booking. As a Driver-Trained Occupational Therapist (OT), I specialise in working with older people and stroke survivors who need to have an OT Driving Assessment to assess their medical fitness to drive, as required by the Roads and Maritime Services (RMS) in NSW. I’m an experienced Occupational Therapist with 19 years’ experience who’s completed post-graduate qualifications in Driver Training.
It’s important to understand the medical standards that apply to safe driving when you’re a stroke survivor. The Austroads website explains the standards for fitness to drive in detail and outlines the changes that were made in June 2022.
If you have questions or would like to know more, feel free to ring me on 0475578 050 or complete the enquiry form on my website.