Being assessed by a specialist

In some cases, to apply for or renew your licence, your doctor might require you to be assessed by an occupational therapist driving instructor.

If your doctor thinks you are medically fit to drive but is unsure about your specialist conditions, he or she may issue you with a medical certificate for a driver licence.

This means you can renew your driver licence, subject to being referred to and assessed by an occupational therapist driving assessor. Occupational therapists become involved with driving because of:

  1. An individual’s ability to drive and the need for vehicle modifications
  2. An individual's cognitive function related to driving
  3. Some vision problems, particularly related to grey areas around visual fields.

What the assessment involves

It’s a two part assessment which has off and on-road components. 

The off-road assessment (in a therapist's office) is undertaken by a fully qualified Occupational Therapist and includes a serious test designed to measure your observation, memory skill and (typically) a full physical functional screening. The off-road assessment takes up to 90 minutes and can be conducted in your own home.

An on-road assessment might also be needed. This will normally be conducted in areas you are familiar with. The on-road assessment takes approximately 60 minutes and involves driving in a variety of local and familiar areas. For the on-road assessment, you normally use your own vehicle.

The on-road assessment is not a driving test of the type required to sit or retain a driver’s licence. The focus is on a range of behaviours which can be associated with cognitive function.

These include:

  • The ability to apply priority rules
  • The ability to make a decision in a reasonable time acting appropriately
  • The ability to observe and recognise signs (includes knowing you are at a give-way or stop sign)
  • Reacting in time to hazards, i.e. late braking for other vehicles, intersections, bends in the road and pedestrians - including inappropriate stopping for empty pedestrian crossings and intersections
  • Selecting correct lanes
  • The ability to self-navigate from point to point selecting an appropriate route

The on-road assessment is accompanied by a registered driving instructor and an Occupational Therapist. 

After the assessment

Occupational Therapists have no power to grant or revoke a driver licence. Current Waka Kotahi NZTA rules allow the Medical Section of the Waka Kotahi NZTA to act upon the recommendations contained in a formal Driving Assessment report.

 The recommendations may include:

  1. Resume/continue unrestricted driving
  2. Resume /continue driving, but with limitations on time of day and distance from home
  3. Essential vehicle features, such as automatic only or only with vehicle modifications
  4. Revocation of a driver licence

Limitations placed on a licence must be realistic and enforceable. Full assessment cost varies greatly depending on where the person lives and the travel involved and can cost between $400 - $700.

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