Your Health and Your Drivers Licence

In regional areas, we often value the independence afforded to us through our driver’s licence. In areas where public transport is scarce or does not operate to times that suit needs, the ability to drive is precious.

However driving a motor vehicle is a heavy responsibility, and a privilege granted by the State, not a right. A motor vehicle can become a deadly weapon when not operated properly as our road toll attests. There are obvious things you can do to ensure that you are fit to drive. These include not driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs, not driving tired and paying attention when driving. However, you also need to consider if your health would impede your proper operation of a motor vehicle.

You have a duty to report ‘any long-term or permanent medical condition – likely to adversely affect’ the ability to drive to the Department of Transport and Main Roads (TMR) immediately. You cannot wait until it is time to renew your driver’s license to report these health conditions.

TMR will then determine whether you need to obtain a medical certificate to continue to drive, and if so, how often that needs to be reviewed and whether any special conditions should be placed on your driver license. Special conditions may be something like not driving at night or only operating an automatic motor vehicle.

The onus is on each driver to assess whether the condition needs to be reported to TMR. It may be advisable to discuss your health conditions with your General Practitioner (GP) or Specialist to determine what should be reported. Examples of conditions that could be reportable are epilepsy, diabetes, psychiatric conditions (including depression), strokes, vision or hearing problems, sleep disorders, heart disease and head injuries. Many of these conditions may not exist at the time you obtain your driver’s licence, but develop later in life or be a consequence of an accident. Whilst having these conditions will not necessarily prevent you from holding a driver’s licence, an assessment needs to be made as to whether conditions should be imposed or how often your condition should be reviewed in the context of fitness to drive. If a condition is well managed it may mean you can drive as normal. However, if for example, you have been experiencing blackouts or fainting you should not be driving until the cause is ascertained and managed as there is a risk you will suffer an episode whilst operating a vehicle.

You may also be aware that all persons over the age of 75 years must have a yearly medical certificate confirming fitness to drive. The medical certificate may impose conditions as discussed above on when and how you can drive.

It is important to note that you may suffer temporary health conditions that could impact on your ability to drive, that does not necessarily need to be reported to the Authorities. These could include medications that may be given for headaches, colds and cases of flu that could cause drowsiness meaning you should not operate a motor vehicle whilst taking them. Should you have an accident as a result of a medical condition, particularly if the accident results in injury or death to other persons, you could be subject to criminal charges which would include a loss of your driver’s licence and possible jail time. If you have any concerns regarding your health and your driver’s license you should discuss these with your GP and seek legal advice.

Stacey O’Gorman
Solicitor
Macdonald & Michel Solicitors 
http://www.macdonaldmichel.com.au
07 4972 3644

Stacey is a Solicitor of the Supreme Court of Queensland and the High Court of Australia. Stacey was admitted as a solicitor in 2002 and relocated to Gladstone in 2003 where she has remained working as a solicitor in the local area as well as being involved with the Community Legal Program and volunteering her time and legal expertise with not for profit organisations.Stacey has experience primarily in Criminal Law, Wills and Estates and Family Law. Stacey regularly appears as an advocate before the Court and takes pride in providing grounded, practical advice to her clients.

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