The OT driving assessment – what is it?
The OT driving assessment is conducted by an Occupational therapist, who is a university-trained health professional. OTs assist people in various elements of life to enhance their skills and independence, such as driving. To become a Driver Trained OT, the OT has completed a specialised course.
The OT assessment is divided into two sections; the off-road assessment and on-road assessment. In the off-road part, the OT evaluates the person’s vision, cognition/mental aptitude to drive and physical functioning. If any major physical shortfalls are observed (for example loss of movement in a limb), the OT may anticipate that vehicle modifications will be required for the on-road assessment.
The on-road section engages the person in a 1-hour drive with the OT and rehabilitation driving instructor. For everyone’s safety, the driving instructor’s vehicle (equipped with dual-control brakes) must be used. The person will be asked to drive in all traffic conditions (from quiet single-lane roads to busy highways or major roads). While driving, the OT will be observing how the person’s medical condition may be impinging on their driving performance. This is assessed by how well the person performs in all traffic situations and whether or not the driving instructor needed to physically intervene (i.e. by using the steering wheel or applying the emergency brakes). Minor missteps that the person makes that are determined to be due to poor driving habits or being unaccustomed to the car are often overlooked.
When do I know about the outcome?
The OT will confer with the person about the results of the assessment after the drive. There are 3 possible outcomes:
- The medical diagnosis is not affecting the person’s driving. The OT will recommend to the RMS that they can continue to drive with their licence as normal.
- The medical condition is having some impact on the person’s driving conduct. The OT may specify a number of driving lessons the person needs to work on the errors observed, or the person may need vehicle modifications. If modifications are necessary, a number of driving lessons will be recommended by the OT to ensure the person drives safely with the new modifications. The person will often need to complete an OT driving reassessment and/or take the RMS disability test.
- The person’s illness is disturbing their driving performance and they are not driving safely or to RMS standards. The OT decides that the person’s condition and driving skills are not likely to improve, even with further driving lessons. In this instance, the OT will recommend that the person’s licence is cancelled