Driving and your health

Find out everything you need to know about driving with a medical condition

Driving a car is a complex task requiring good vision, judgement, perception and physical abilities. Sometimes, disabilities or chronic medical conditions (or medications to treat them) can impact our ability to drive safely. This can happen at any age. 

The good news is that help is available to support safe driving through strategies such as vehicle modifications and licensing conditions. These strategies are managed through the VicRoads Medical Review process. 

Medical Review is a process VicRoads uses to determine whether a person living with a chronic illness or disability is fit to drive. Drivers can initiate the review themselves, or it can be arranged by a health practitioner, a friend/family member or anonymously by a member of the public. Sometimes, repeated reviews are needed to assess an individual’s ongoing ability to drive, such as for people managing a chronic illness.  Decisions about driving and licencing are made on a case by case basis and are based on national fitness to drive guidelines

What's involved in the Medical Review process?

Doctor sitting with a patient

When VicRoads receives a report, they’ll send a letter informing the driver that their licence status needs to be reviewed.

  1. The driver will be asked to make an appointment for a fitness to drive assessment with a General Practitioner (who is familiar with their medical history).
  2. The doctor completes a VicRoads medical report and submits this to VicRoads.
  3. VicRoads reviews the report and assesses if any further action is required, such as:
    • An eye test.
    • An appointment with a specialist.
    • A driving assessment (for example, an occupational therapy driving assessment)
  4. The result of the Medical Review process is then communicated to the driver in writing.
Step 1: reporting. The process can be initiated and arranged by drivers, a health practitioner, a friend of family member, anonymous member of the public. Stage 2: Providing reports and testing. VicRoads requests you to provide a report. You make an appointment with your doctor. Your doctor completes the report. Report submitted to VicRoads. VicRoads assesses information. VicRoads advises you of the outcome in writing . Stage 3: Your medical review outcome. Keep your driver licence and continue driving OR keep your driver licence and continue driving but you will need to be assessed again in the future. OR Drive with a conditional licence. OR Suspension or cancellation of a licence if found not fit to drive.

Do I need to report my medical condition?

All drivers need to let VicRoads know about any serious, permanent or long-term illness, disability, medical condition or injury that may affect their ability to drive safely.

There are many medical conditions, or combinations of conditions, that can affect a person's ability to drive safely. These include, but aren’t limited to:

  • vision impairments
  • diabetes (requiring medication or insulin)
  • heart conditions
  • psychiatric conditions
  • sleep disorders including sleep apnoea
  • hearing impairments (for commercial vehicle drivers)
  • neurological conditions such as dementia, seizures, epilepsy, stroke, Parkinson's disease or Multiple Sclerosis
  • acquired brain injuries or tumours.

If you have a long-term medical condition or you’re concerned about your fitness to drive, speak to your health practitioner about your need to report.

Under the Road Safety Act 1986, VicRoads is responsible for ensuring that all drivers are fit to drive.

Some medical conditions requiring review include: diabetes, Multiple Sclerosis (MS), vision and eye disorders, neurological conditions, psychiatric conditions, cardiovascular diseases.

What happens if I don't report my condition?

If you drive with a medical condition or disability that impairs your driving, you’re putting yourself and other road users at risk. Your insurance coverage could also be affected, because you haven’t complied with your legal requirement to report.

RACV research has found that drivers felt most empowered through the Medical Review process when they initiated the process themselves. If a member of the public reported drivers, receiving a letter in the mail sometimes came as a surprise.

Unfortunately, some people with advanced medical conditions or disabilities may not meet the national fitness-to-drive standards needed to continue to hold a licence. This only affects a small percentage of drivers. This is a decision VicRoads doesn’t take lightly, understanding that this can be an emotional process and create a significant lifestyle change, especially for those who have been driving for a long time with no or few traffic infringements or crashes.

Thankfully, there are a number of services available to provide support and help people maintain their independence and mobility when they can no longer drive. These options can include:

  • Taking public transport
  • Getting lifts from family and friends
  • Using community buses and health related transport
  • Taking a taxi and or ride-share service
  • Using a motorised mobility scooter.

It’s a good idea to practice taking these different forms of public transport and ride-share services to boost your confidence getting around and reduce reliance on using a car.

For community and health related transport, contact your local council for specific information on the best type of services and when and where they run. Discount taxi fares are also available to those who are eligible.

What is a conditional licence?

A conditional licence sets out safe driving parameters to suit a person’s circumstance. Examples of conditions that can be applied to a licence can include: 

  • Always wearing glasses while driving. 
  • Not driving at night. 
  • Only driving within a prescribed kilometre radius of the driver’s home. 
  • Using a vehicle with a modification, such as a steering aid or additional hand-controls. 

People who require their medical condition or disability to be monitored will be asked to undergo periodic medical reviews (e.g. every 2 years) to manage their driving independence. 

We encourage people to speak to family members or a doctor about any concerns.  Family members or friends can also be proactive in encouraging drivers to seek advice about the impact their medical condition or disability may have on their driving. 

Here are some tips to help you bring up the conversation: 

Know when to have the conversation.  
Ask yourself: Do you feel comfortable letting the person drive you or your loved ones somewhere? The answer may be a signal that it’s time to start the conversation.

If possible, go with the driver to see their doctor.
A medical appointment can be a good opportunity to raise issues about their ability to drive and receive advice from an unbiased perspective. A doctor can then help with the planning and management of the condition in relation to their driving. The conversation around driving can take time, so try to organise a special appointment dedicated to the discussion. 

Ask for support.  
Talk to the driver’s friends or family to see if they share your concerns. You could also rehearse the discussion you plan on having with the driver so you can be better prepared to handle their reaction. Depending on the circumstances, you may want one or more of the person’s supports to participate in having the conversation with you and the driver.

Be compassionate and empathetic.  
You don’t want to make the driver feel like ‘everyone is ganging up on them,’ so be sure to frame the conversation with patience and care.  Carefully choose the right time to bring up the subject. Remember to remain calm and supportive and try not to let your anxiety or fear escalate into a heated or accusatory conversation. 

Discuss specifics but avoid blame.
Explain why you’re worried about someone’s driving in a casual, observational way. Try not to accuse the driver of doing the wrong thing. You might phrase these observations in the following way: 

  • “I noticed you didn’t see that stop sign.” 
  • “I felt you didn’t leave enough time for the car to pass.” 
  • “You seemed unsure about where the supermarket was.”

Be prepared for resistance and anger. 
Driving represents independence to many people. When they think you might be taking away their ability to get around, they may become defensive or agitated. If this is the case, it might be best to end the conversation and revisit it at a later stage when they’ve had the opportunity to cool off and digest the information. 

Ask for the drivers’ opinion. 
It’s very possible that if you’ve noticed problems, he or she may have too.  Make time to ask the driver how they feel about their driving ability and confidence behind the wheel.  

Appeal to the driver's sense of responsibility. 
If the medical professionals and the occupational therapy driving assessor agree that it’s time for the person to stop driving, appeal to the driver’s sense of responsibility. Remind them that continuing to drive not only poses a risk to their safety, but the safety of others on the road. 

Quotes from drivers and family members: "I was nervous about losing my licence."  "I don't like waiting! It made me feel like I failed." "I was relieved and happy I passed". "The actual process wasn't as bad as I anticipated." "I was relieved someone was going to check that everything was ok with his driving." I have to take time of work to support my mum." "Glad my dad was given good restrictions based on his condition." "Good to know my mum is safe to drive."

Visit Health In Aging for tips on how to start a conversation with an older driver.