Driving is often one of the most important tasks people undertake on a daily basis. For many people, driving signifies an important milestone in a person’s life, as driving often equates to enhanced independence. Driving allows people to integrate and socialize with their community, as well as enables freedom and travel to their workplace or educational institute.
However, sadly, many people during their life will experience an injury or develop a medical condition that may decrease their ability to drive. This often causes distress to the person as it can restrict their independence and change their daily routines. This is where Driver Trained Occupational Therapists can be utilized.
Driver trained occupational therapist (OTs) are registered like other OTs with the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (AHPRA). They are often members of OT Australia (OTAUS). They must have completed a university degree in Occupational Therapy and after practicing as a therapist for several years, have completed an additional post-graduate qualification to become registered as a Driver Trained Occupational Therapist. This supplementary experience allows them to make decisions regarding someone’s fitness to drive through an occupational therapy Australia driving assessment.
What makes the Occupational Therapist the most appropriate profession to assess driving?
To answer that question, the role of an Occupational Therapist must first be defined. This may be challenging to articulate and specify, as Occupational Therapists work in a variety of settings and with people in all age groups and various medical conditions. Occupational therapists can engage with people in truly every aspect of their lives to enhance their independence. However, at the core, Occupational Therapists aim to help people to complete activities that are necessary and meaningful for that person. This is generally achieved by developing ways to mould the person’s physical environment to better support and assist them, and/or augmenting the person’s coping skills and independence. Common examples of occupational therapy goals include basic self-care tasks, money management, equipment prescription or returning to work.
Driving is one of the most complex daily tasks we complete. This is because it requires a person to utilize their vision, cognition and their entire body. Driving necessitates that these three components work together, so the person can drive safely and to legal standards. Other therapists are limited to treating specific issues; for example, a Psychologist can assess cognition but would be unable to assess any physical deficits, or a Physiotherapist is qualified to assess and treat physical deficits but cannot develop cognitive based interventions. Similarly, the use of doctors is also limited to explore fitness to drive as they are unable to complete a practical observation of the person’s driving (on-road assessment). Therefore, it has been established that Occupational Therapist Australia Driving Assessments are the benchmark for determining fitness to drive.
Occupational therapists are qualified to assess all the above mentioned areas and do this while observing the person driving on-road. Driver Trained Occupational Therapists are able to assist people to maintain or regain their licence by recommending interventions and developing their skills to use vehicle modifications. Driver Trained Occupational Therapists can also develop specialized lesson plans for people who are making errors due to their medical condition. This is often done in collaboration with rehabilitation driving instructors.
When a person has a medical condition that may impact their ability to drive, their treating doctor or health professional may refer them for an Occupational Therapy Australia Driving Assessment. This is common practice throughout Australia and many other countries. The primary aim of all driving assessments completed by occupational therapists is to determine if the person is currently safe to drive. This is the therapist’s first concern. As mentioned earlier, driving is complex, but it is also often the most riskiest task most people engage in on a daily basis, due to the constantly changing environment. Motor vehicle accidents remain one of the most common forms of death and injury in Australia.
The second aim for the occupational therapist is then to determine if the person is not able to drive due to their medical condition, what interventions can be implemented to get them to return to driving as soon as possible. This may involve the occupational therapist prescribing vehicle modifications for the person, which they will need to learn how to use safely and independently, then have endorsed on their driver’s licence.