An Occupational Therapy driving assessment can support NDIS participants to continue to drive safely, independently and legally.
Driving assessments are useful for:
- First time and learner drivers, from before they start driving until they get their licence
- Maintaining a licence, for drivers whose disability may be affecting their driving
- Regaining a licence, for drivers who are returning to driving
Following a driving assessment, a driver trained Occupational Therapist (OT) will often make recommendations about driver rehabilitation, vehicle modifications and licence conditions.
What is an occupational therapy driving assessment?
An Occupational Therapy driving assessment involves both an off-road and an on-road component.
In the off-road component, a driver trained OT will ask about a participant’s driving and medical history, test their understanding of road law, and assess physical, visual, sensory and thinking abilities.
This part of the assessment evaluates:
- Functional limitations
- Understanding of safe driving
- Need for vehicle modifications or licence conditions
- Requirements for the on-road test, such as the vehicle type (automatic or manual), vehicle modifications, and where the test should be conducted
The off-road test allows the OT to determine which modifications, aids or training are needed to support driving ability.
The on-road part of the OT driving assessment involves driving a dual-controlled car for about an hour with a driver trained OT and a driving instructor. Many aspects of driving are assessed, including:
- Physical limitations
- Judgement and ability to adjust to traffic situations
- Reacting well to traffic
- Obeying road laws
- Completing driving tasks despite distractions, such as talking
After your OT driving assessment
For people with previous driving experience, the OT driving assessment will determine if they can safely return to driving either unconditionally or with conditions, or with vehicle modifications (which may be funded by the NDIS). For instance, a stroke may have affected functioning in an upper limb, affecting steering. The participant may require a steering aid to enable them to steer safely with one hand.
Driver licencing conditions aim to protect the safety of the participant and other road users. They include wearing corrective lenses, driving automatic vehicles or a specially modified vehicle, and driving in daylight hours only or in certain areas.
If a modification is needed, such as a steering aid or left foot accelerator, the equipment will be fitted and the OT will recommend driving lessons (which may also be funded by the NDIS) to learn how to use the modification independently.
For learner drivers with limited driving experience, it is more difficult to determine if a disability is affecting driving ability. The assessment provides an indication of current driving skills so the OT can recommend a number of driving lessons to progress to a provisional licence.
If the driving assessment is unsatisfactory
If a person is found unsafe to drive, they may be:
- Asked to take driving lessons to improve skills or get used to vehicle modifications
- Required to have a further on-road test after completing these lessons
- Asked to wait for further recovery or improvement to occur
- Found not safe to continue or to resume driving at this point in time
If it is not possible for a participant to drive safely and legally, a driver trained OT can support their ability to travel in other ways. For instance, they can provide public transport training, investigate NDIS funding for taxis and rideshares, and connect people to community transport providers.
A driver trained OT can also recommend car modifications that make being a passenger easier. Modifications may include supports to make it easier to enter and exit a car, special seats that make a car journey safer and more comfortable, and solutions to load a mobility aid for transport.
How can Ability Action Australia help?
Ability Action Australia’s Occupational Therapy Driving Service can help you to start, resume or continue driving. Our driver trained OTs understand how important driving is to your life, and we’re committed to keeping you driving for as long as possible.
Whether you’re learning to drive or need vehicle modifications, we’ll work with you to identify your needs and tailor a plan to maintain your independence and get you out on the road.
Our Driver Trained OTs are the only health professionals qualified to conduct a practical on-road driving assessment of how a person’s medical condition impacts their capacity to drive.
Want to learn more? Click the link to learn about a typical day in the life of a driving OT.