How to manage driving when you have a medical condition

by | Mar 13, 2023

Understanding the Austroads medical standards and guidelines

Navigating the world of medical standards and guidelines for drivers with a medical condition can be tricky. Keeping up with changes can be even more challenging. As a Driver-Trained Occupational Therapist (OT) who assesses fitness to drive, I believe it’s important for you to have the standards explained without the jargon. In this article I’ll outline the different medical conditions that commonly affect driving and the roles and responsibilities of health professionals and licence holders to give you the big picture of what’s involved with fitness to drive. I’ll also discuss the main difference between medical standards for private and commercial licence holders.

What do the Austroads guidelines say about driving with a medical condition?

The national driver medical standards Assessing Fitness to Drive determined by Austroads outline the criteria for safe driving. These standards are of particular importance to people with a medical condition as it’s important to assess to what extent this medical condition impacts on the ability to drive safely. The Austroads website mentions the following conditions that commonly affect driving:

  • Blackouts
  • Cardiovascular conditions
  • Diabetes
  • Hearing loss and deafness
  • Musculoskeletal conditions
  • Neurological conditions
  • Psychiatric conditions
  • Sleep disorders
  • Stroke
  • Vision and eye disorders

As a Driver-Trained Occupational Therapist (OT), I specialise in working with older people and stroke survivors [link to Blog ‘Stroke-specific guidelines to fitness to drive’] 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.

Roles and responsibilities for health professionals and licence holders

Health professionals

Every health professional is tasked with the responsibility to inform patients if a permanent or long-term illness, disability, medical condition or injury may affect their ability to drive safely and legally. As an OT or allied health professional, it is my duty of care to ensure this happens. I’d like to reiterate that I’m not assessing whether you’re a good driver but whether your medical condition affects your safe driving ability. Read my blog on why you need an OT Driving Assessment for more clarity.

Licence holders

Licence holders in NSW are required by law to inform their driver licensing authority, the Roads and Maritime Services (RMS), of any long-term or permanent injury or illness, disability or medical treatment that may affect their safe driving ability. The RMS website states, ‘Drivers may be liable at common law if they continue driving knowing that they have a condition that is likely to adversely affect safe driving.’

Private and commercial licence holders

Everyone who has a licence, be that for a car or motorcycle, must adhere to the private standards for licencing. A person who drives a truck or drives for work must adhere to commercial standards. The medical standards for private and commercial licence holders differ because public safety risk is understandably higher for people with a commercial licence. The medical fitness requirements for the commercial vehicle driver standards are more stringent to reduce the risk of a crash, as much as possible, due to long-term injuries or illnesses. Check out this page on the Austroads website for more details.  


It’s important to understand the medical standards that apply to safe driving when you have a medical condition. The Austroads website explains the standards for fitness to drive in detail. 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.


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