Blog

Aged Drivers

Driving is something that most people expect to be able to do until the very end of their lives.  Sometimes this can happen, and other times, the ageing process can lead to physical and mental changes that can impact safety with driving.

Most older drivers today learned to drive in a time when road conditions, road rules, and road risks were extremely different.  Many older drivers never had driving lessons, and some even drove unlicensed until the local cop finally had them come down to the station to pick up a real license.

Today, the road environment and the rules around driving are drastically different.  The process by which one has to get a license is stringent and specific, and ALL people wishing to get a new license must go through rigorous testing procedures set-up in each state of Australia.  Luckily, older drivers already have a license….BUT, the problem is, many older drivers let time pass without ever educating themselves on what has changed, and therefore don’t keep up with the current rules and required skills and knowledge to drive safely on today’s roads.

It is extremely important that older drivers remain aware of the driving rules and skills of today, as these requirements remain the same for every person holding a license.  NO MATTER when it was that you got your license in the first place.  You need to be able to show that you have the skills that will keep you safe driving in our current world.  Furthermore, if you are not able to go on demonstrating these skills, you don’t meet the licensing standards in the eyes of the law.

It is a great idea as you get older to keep your knowledge current by reading information provided on transport authority websites.  For those who prefer less internet time, booklets are available at service centres that you can take and read, to refresh your knowledge of current road laws and required skills.  Additionally, it is advisable that all older drivers read ‘The Road Ahead’ (click for link), which is a resource that has been developed to help you manage your expectations around continuing to drive as you get older.  Reading this will help you to understand if your doctor ever tells you it’s time for a driving assessment.

Older Aged Driving Gold Coast

As you age, you may not always be aware of the ways in which you body and brain are slowly changing.  These changes may have an impact on your driving, and they may not.  Our role, and our legal obligation, is to use our expert knowledge (along with your doctor) to make sure these changes are not affecting your safety.   If you have questions about your own driving as you get older, give us a call for a chat.

Driving with a Disability

In the occupational therapy world, we like to think of disability as more of a speed bump than anything else.  Individuals with disabilities can often feel like their options are limited – that the only way they can do things is with the help of someone else.  And although this may be true for certain activities, driving is often not one of them.

Driving a car is a great privilege, and allows us freedom to access the community when and where we like and need.  It is important to recognise that there are a set of standards that one has to meet in order to hold a license, and this is because driving a car is extremely risky and dangerous.  Some people who have been lucky enough not to have been in an accident do not understand the risk associated with driving, but if you or a family member has been in a crash, this risk might feel more real to you.  And that’s a good thing.

When someone has a disability, it means they have a permanent change in the functioning of their physiology in some way, when compared to a typically functioning person.  These changes affect people in all different ways, but can mean that life needs to be adapted a little bit.  Driving is no different!  Through engineering and technology that is constantly changing, we can adapt the task of driving too!  There are many car modifications for disability that a person can learn to use, and often we can find a solution that fits a person’s unique needs just perfectly.

There are, however, a few things you need to know about driving with a disability.  You are still required to meet standards set forth by your local transport authority, and any modifications you use MUST be prescribed by a driver-trained occupational therapist, and endorsed on your license.  You also have to complete a driver assessment to demonstrate your competence with the use of modifications.

The process you need to go through to start driving with a disability has a few different steps involved.  Have a look at the flow-chart below to get an idea of these steps:

Flowchart.png

Please note, this process refers to individuals who have previously driven.  If you are a new driver, you will have to declare your medical condition/disability when you go to complete your knowledge test.  If you obtain your learner’s permit in NSW, you must then take the RMS ‘Fitness to Drive Medical Assessment’ Form back to your doctor, then complete your OT driving assessment.  If you are in Queensland, you must declare your condition and provide your medical certificate (Form F3712) when you obtain your learner’s permit.

The key is, many people with disabilities can drive their entire lives using modifications that change the car to suit their needs.  Furthermore, with the NDIS in place, much of this process can be funded and can therefore facilitate your driving if you meet the eligibility requirements held by the NDIS.

Although this process can seem daunting at a first look, we are here to help guide you and ensure that everything is done properly and legally.  CTP insurance providers are very particular about disclosure, and require that you comply with the rules of the transport authority regarding driving with a medical condition. We are here to answer questions and assist you through this process, to ultimately give you the freedom to live your life wherever, and whenever you want!

Driving with Dementia

Dementia is a very serious condition that affects 30% of people over the age of 85, and 10% of people over age 65 in Australia (2). It is estimated that there are approximately 250 newly diagnosed cases of dementia every day, which is projected to increase to 318 new cases per day by 2025, and 650 new cases per day by 2056 (2).

Dementia is a disease and has a significant affect on people, families, and their communities. Dementia impacts many capacities, including but not limited to: thinking, memory, learning, attention, intellect, insight, and judgement, and changes can happen at different rates for each person affected. These changes, that happen in the brain, affect how people with dementia are able to function, and their ability to do activities the same way they may have been used to doing in the past.

Driving is a very serious, complex, and risky activity that can have extreme consequences. For this reason, transport authorities have determined a set of high standards for functioning that need to be met by every individual who holds a license. When someone has dementia, they are likely to loose the ability to meet these standards over time. Unfortunately, this has no relation to driving experience, and it also doesn’t mean they were not once an excellent driver. It means that the medical condition, dementia, has caused permanent changes to the capacities they need to drive safely.  Due to the permanent and degenerative nature of these changes, lessons are not appropriate for people with dementia, as they are not going to improve the person’s symptoms.

In Australia, a person is legally obligated to inform the local transport authority that they have been diagnosed with dementia.  If you fail to report your condition to the transport authority,  your doctor will notify the department for you.  It is extremely important to address the issue of driving immediately upon diagnosis.  In some cases your doctor may feel it is necessary to refer you for an assessment of your driving, and in other cases your doctor may advise you to cease driving without further assessment.

Driving with DementiaImage from: Austroads. (2016). Assessing Fitness to drive: commercial and private vehicle drivers (5th Ed). Sydney: Austroads Inc.

If someone is referred for a driving assessment immediately upon diagnosis of dementia, the person may be able to keep his or her license for a little while.   However, ongoing driving is only possible if symptoms have not progressed, and they still meet the safety standards required to hold a license. However, as soon as there are changes that affect someone’s safety on the road, or the safety of others, it is time to stop driving. This can be extremely difficult for a person with dementia, as driving has often been a source of freedom and independence over their lifetime. Furthermore, dementia can often also lead to reduced awareness of one’s own deficits, which means that someone with dementia may not understand or even see the danger of their mistakes. Some people do not recognise mistakes at all. For this reason, it is crucial that family members offer emotional support and transport assistance to lessen the impact of ceasing driving. In Australia, there are also other transport options that have been subsidised to facilitate access to the community for those who cannot drive a car.

For persons with dementia, ceasing driving is often a necessary but difficult transition. Due to the dangerous and high-risk nature of driving, safety is of utmost importance and has to be prioritised for all persons involved.

If you notice changes in a family member’s memory, thinking, attention, judgement, or awareness, the safest option is to stop driving and see a doctor immediately, until you have further information about why these changes are happening, and/or have been advised that you are safe to drive.

For more information about dementia, please visit https://www.dementia.org.au/information/about-dementia.

 

 

(1) Austroads. (2016). Assessing Fitness to drive: commercial and private vehicle drivers (5th Ed). Sydney: Austroads Inc.
(2) The National Centre for Social and Economic Modelling NATSEM (2016) Economic Cost of Dementia in Australia 2016-2056

 

 

What do Occupational Therapists Do?

Occupational therapists are experts in helping people do all the things they want and need to do in their daily lives.

Whether you have experienced an injury, or are experiencing functional changes due to the natural ageing process, an occupational therapist can help you figure out how to get back to doing the things that mean the most to you, with the people who mean the most to you!

Occupational therapists are in the game of helping you find ways of improving your quality of life, reaching your goals, and finding different ways of adapting activities to suit your current and/or changing abilities.

At Gold Coast Driver Assessments & Rehab, our goal is to facilitate you to be able to participate in the activity of driving,  so long as your medical condition allows you to do so safely.