Fitness to drive

Driving a motor vehicle is a complex task involving such attributes as perception, judgement and reasonable physical capability.

A range of medical and age-related conditions, as well as their treatments, may impair one or more of these factors, thereby increasing the risk of being involved in a crash.

The extent that medical conditions contribute to road crashes is difficult to assess, but there is international recognition and community expectation that medical standards for driving be established and applied (Queensland Transport 2009, p1).

In Australia, the medical standards for driving are detailed in the Austroads publication entitled Assessing Fitness to Drive:

All Queensland drivers licence holders (regardless of age) are required to report to the Department of Transport and Main Roads any long term or permanent medical condition that may affect their ability to drive safely as soon as the condition develops or changes (Queensland Transport 2009, p1).

Typically, this involves such medical conditions as diabetes, epilepsy, heart disease, vision problems, blackouts, psychiatric disorders, sleep disorders and age-related decline, among many others.

Further to this, all Queensland drivers 75 years of age or older must hold a valid medical certificate at all times (Queensland Transport 2009, p1).

While it is important that older road users are better protected on the roads (by both the roads and their vehicles), it may not be necessary to subject them to stricter re-testing regimes than the rest of the driving population.

This is especially the case when taking into consideration that driving is important for many older people to maintain independence and mobility (Queensland Transport 2008, p22) and the negative impacts that a loss of this independence and mobility may have on them.

Nevertheless, many drivers regardless of age can be impaired to the extent that they need to stop driving while others may choose to stop for their own reasons. In all such cases, safe, accessible and affordable alternative transport options are vital in order to help ensure people do not continue to drive when it is no longer safe for them to do so.

The Club’s Community and Education Team also delivers presentations and provides feedback and advice to drivers, e.g., the Years Ahead presentations (based on the Years Ahead program developed by RACV).

When it is time to stop driving

It is important that all drivers regardless of age are medically fit to drive. As we get older, often the decision has to be made as to whether we will continue driving or not. This episode of RACQ explores fitness to drive.

    1. Promote and expand initiatives such as RACQ’s Years Ahead program, which educate older drivers on how to drive safely for longer.
    2. Educate drivers on their responsibilities and the roles of health professionals and The Department of Transport and Main Roads in assessing their fitness to drive and in licensing them to drive respectively.
    3. Increase awareness among health professionals and motorists of appropriate driver assessment services available to assist in advising motorists on their ability to drive.
    4. Increase awareness and use of Assessing Fitness to Drive by Austroads among health professionals.
    5. Improve access to health professionals and relevant driving assessment services for impaired or potentially impaired drivers who reside in rural or remote regions.
    6. Introduce a requirement for health professionals to notify the Department of Transport and Main Roads about patients who have medical conditions that affect their ability to drive safely.
    7. Investigate and provide alternative transport options to make the transition process from driver to non-driver less traumatic, particularly in rural and remote regions, and support projects to assist in enabling life-long mobility.
    8. Encourage road environment design that caters to the needs of older drivers.
    9. Encourage the design of safer vehicles for older people.
    10. Develop, promote and improve access to public education materials for older road users.
    11. Build partnerships with organisations working in the fields of aging, disabilities and health care to help develop and distribute better public education materials to road users.
    12. Continue to research the impacts of our aging society and, in particular, the effects on road safety, with a view to developing effective countermeasures.
    13. Monitor the success of the current systems for assessing fitness to drive and make relevant research-based improvements to the system.


  • Austroads 2012, Assessing Fitness to Drive: for commercial and private vehicle drivers, Fourth Edition 2012, Austroads, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia.

    Market and Communications Research December 2008, RACQ Safety Policy Survey: Quantitative Research Report, Market and Communications Research, Spring Hill, Queensland, Australia.

    Queensland Transport 2009, FACT SHEET: Jet’s Law: Driver licence holders and medical condition reporting, Queensland Transport, Brisbane, Queensland, Australia.

    Queensland Transport 2008, Queensland Road Safety Action Plan 2008-2009: safe4life, Queensland Government, Brisbane, Queensland, Australia.

    RACQ January 2009, Member Issues Monitor Report, The Royal Automobile Club of Queensland Limited, Eight Mile Plains, Queensland, Australia.

    Townsend, E. and Avenoso, A. 2008, "Road Safety as a right and responsibility for all": A Blueprint for the EU’s 4th Road Safety Action Programme 2010 – 2020, European Transport Safety Council, Brussels, Belgium.

Things to note

The information in this article has been prepared for general information purposes only and is not intended as legal advice or specific advice to any particular person. Any advice contained in the document is general advice, not intended as legal advice or professional advice and does not take into account any person’s particular circumstances. Before acting on anything based on this advice you should consider its appropriateness to you, having regard to your objectives and needs.