Who needs a medical assessment and why?
The New Zealand Transport Authority requires renewal of driving licenses when you turn 75, at age 80, and every two years after that.
Our ability to drive safely decreases over time, and at some point, all of us will no longer meet the fitness criteria to keep driving. Older age in itself is not a contra-indication to driving, but many medical conditions may affect how safely we perform this function.
Renewing your licence includes getting a medical certificate from your doctor. Your doctor is legally tasked to ensure that you are medically fit to drive safely. This is a legal and ethical obligation to the New Zealand Transport Authority, the patient and the public to ensure the safety of other road users, as well as the individual that is driving. Driving is not a right, and a balance must be struck between the quality of life of the individual person and keeping them and other road users safe on the roads.
Your doctor will need to consider many aspects: Medical conditions that may lead to sudden incapacitation, your eyesight, your memory, how quickly you can make decisions, how quickly you react when you are driving, and how likely you are to become fatigued during driving. This evaluation may be quite complicated.
Note that Class 2-5 licenses (Trucks and heavy vehicles) and P (Passenger) and FTWR endorsements have more stringent requirements than Class 1 (Light motor vehicles). Maintaining some of these licenses may require specialist sign-off if you suffer from certain conditions.
Medical Assessment Appointment
The process for driver medicals at Masterton Medical consists of a two-part assessment:
A health care assistant or nurse appointment and a doctor’s appointment. You should make an appointment with a nurse and your usual doctor (at times this is may not be possible, and you may need to see someone else).
Please note that we cannot attend to other medical problems or issue prescriptions during these appointments.
The first appointment will include the following tests:
Following this nurse appointment, you need an appointment with a doctor.
During this appointment the doctor will:
If you see an eye specialist you will need to obtain an eye-sight certificate from them (important for sufferers of glaucoma and cataracts, or if you only have vision in one eye).
Outcome of the assessment:
You will either be deemed
If there are any aspects of this medical that we are concerned about, we will discuss your options. You may wish to obtain a second opinion by completing an on-road driving test, either with an Occupational Therapist or a private provider skilled at driving assessment.
Please note: Continuing to drive without a valid licence is an offence under the Land Transport Act, and your doctor is legally bound to inform NZTA if they become aware of this.
What is the cost of a Driving Medical?
Driver medicals are not funded by any government subsidy. (unlike standard GP consultations)
Driving medical costs are: $75 in total
Note: Paying for an assessment by your doctor or by an occupational therapist will not necessarily guarantee that you will remain eligible to continue driving.
Driving Medicals: Failed or in need of further assessment. What Now?
If the examination reveals medical conditions that need further assessment to determine your fitness to drive your doctor will inform you on the next step(s).
The most common reason is eyesight that does not meet the minimum criteria stipulated by NZTA:
If this occurs, your GP will send you to an eye specialist or optometrist with better equipment to see if your vision meets the required standard or can be improved to make the grade. They may be able to manage treatable eye conditions (e.g. prescribe driving glasses, treat cataracts or glaucoma) and enable you to meet the eyesight standard again.
After treating or evaluating your eyes and finding that you do make/meet the minimum accepted eyesight requirements, they will then give you a NZTA Eyesight Certificate. This needs to be brought back to your GP to complete your DL9 Medical Certificate to confirm you are fit enough to drive.
If you do not meet the eyesight requirements, we unfortunately cannot declare you fit to continue driving, even if you are otherwise in good health.
We use scientifically validated screening tests to measure some of the complex brain functions required to safely operate a vehicle. Driving is a very complicated process and requires full engagement of our higher functions (cognition). We are quite often able to manage the mechanics of driving quite easily. But that does not necessarily make us a safe driver.
It is not sufficient to be able to physically drive the car – we must also be able to react quickly, safely and effectively to situations that may occur on the road. We also need to be sure we are not causing accidents by mistakes and slower reactions.
Should you wish to evaluate your ability to drive further, you can ask your doctor to refer you to a specialist Occupational Therapist (OT) for a full assessment of your ability to drive. They will issue your certificate if you pass this assessment.
OT assessments are not funded and will cost you approx $600 or more.
A low score on the screening test would indicate a high likelihood of failing the OT Driving assessment.
Your doctor is legally obliged to inform NZTA of failed OT assessments and if you should refuse to undertake the recommended test. You may simply accept that your driver’s license has lapsed, and not seek to renew it at this point.
NZTA has a list of conditions that are incompatible with the safe operation of motor vehicles on NZ roads. Restrictions are very tight on Class 2-5 drivers, but less so on Class 1 licenses.
Improving symptoms or impairment could result in a return to /continuation of driving. In certain conditions (and classes of license) a specialist’s clearance is required to return to/continue driving.
These conditions include certain neurological conditions (Strokes, Recurrent TIAs, Epilepsy, Loss of Consciousness, Neuromuscular disorders, including Parkinson’s disease, Dementia and other memory impairments), shortly following heart attack, irregular heartbeat, severe high blood pressure, heart failure and cardiomyopathy, uncontrolled diabetes and certain mental health conditions, among a number of other conditions.
Please note: Failing to disclose your pre-existing medical conditions or a failed cognitive screening test to such a doctor is an offence under the Land Transport Act, and could be punishable by law (using a document by deceit).
We are bound by law to report such acts to NZTA should our practice become aware of such a failure to disclose.
We are happy to help and provide advice on this.
Please note: Continuing to drive without a valid license is an offence under the Land Transport Act, and your doctor is legally bound to inform NZTA if they become aware of this.