For anyone with a disability, medical condition or age related condition beginning, continuing or returning to driving, a driving assessment may be recommended by a medial health professional to establish whether they are fit to drive.
If now or in the future you are required to under-go an assessment it should not be seen as something negative or as having a pass or fail outcome. Maintaining the driver’s lifestyle and employment-related mobility independence is paramount both for your medical professional and organisations like the Disabled Drivers Association.
In most cases, having a medical condition will not stop you from driving as the Driver Licensing Authority is able to issue a conditional licence. This means that you may continue to drive as long as certain conditions or restrictions are met. The assessment may be a key component in developing strategies for you to begin, to continue or to return to driving. However in some cases it is just no longer safe for a person to drive. This article explains the various types of assessment and what services and support the Disabled Drivers Association of Ireland can offer you.
Medical Professional Assessments
Physical tests of power, strength, flexibility, mental and motor reaction times and obviously visual acuity all have relevance in relation to a person’s ability to drive safely. Various cognitive, perceptual and behavioural tests provide valuable information and provide indicators as to how a person will cope with the driving task.
While these tests provide valuable information particularly in the area of behaviour, they are not always a reliable or comprehensive measure in determining decisions around continuation or cessation of driving. A combination of one or more of these tests with an on-road evaluation is to date the most comprehensive way of assessing a driver’s ability to drive.
Static Assessment Unit
At the Disabled Drivers Association in Ballindine advanced equipment is available for assessing ability to drive. A static assessment unit assesses the motor ability of upper and lower limbs in terms of strength, mobility and motor reaction time. Mental reactions and decision making ability are also tested.
This assessment is an important component of evaluating what car adaptations, if any, are required for the prospective driver. The unit also assesses the client’s visual field. This information is particularly useful for those beginning to drive or returning following a traumatic injury.
In-Car / On-Road Assessment
The static unit assessment is enhanced by an on road assessment with an experienced instructors. An in- car on-road assessment may be requested to ascertain if any cognitive/perceptual deficits affect one’s ability to drive. Cars are available, which offer a range of adaptations to meet the needs of the majority of clients. The on road assessment allows for an assessment in a more realistic driving situation. This form of assessment has proven to be a better environment for clients returning to driving but now in an adapted vehicle.
The on road assessment allows for an assessment in a more realistic driving situation. This form of assessment has proven to be a better environment for clients who are returning to driving but are now driving an adapted vehicle or drivers seeking to continue driving. When complete the assessment recommendations are discussed with the person being assessed and a report is formulated. The report is generally forwarded to the appropriate medical practitioner with whom the final decision on fitness to drive lies.
The National Programme Office for Traffic Medicine is currently engaged in a consultation to regularise the various agencies conducting assessments around driving to ensure the assessment process meets appropriate standards and is fair rigorous and consistent no matter which agency conducts the assessment. DDAI is actively involved in this process.