Medical Conditions Associated
With At-Risk Driving
Many medical conditions are associated with compromise of cognitive function & impairment of driving ability. Some of these conditions are more obvious, such as dementia or head injuries, but others, such as renal disease & diabetes, are less likely to be readily associated with driving impairment. Some of the more common conditions are listed below. Click on the titles to access information sheets on each of the conditions
Cognitive Impairment & Driving
25% of Australians over the age of 65 have cognitive impairment. This may be due to dementia or to another illness which may cause cognitive impairment eg. some respiratory disorders. Cognitive impairment may also be caused by neurological disease or injury such as multiple sclerosis, Parkinson's disease & head injuries. Intact cognitive functions are necessary for the complex mental processes required for safe driving such as judgement, decision making, planning, perception & reaction time.
Diabetes & Driving
Over 1 million Australians have diabetes & about half are unaware that they have the condition. In addition, around 2 million Australians have pre-diabetes, which if left untreated may develop into diabetes within 5-10 years. If diabetes is poorly managed, the risk of having a "hypo" with low blood sugar increases, resulting in dizziness, disorientation, unconsciousness & possibly seizures. Long term effects of diabetes that could affect your ability to drive include increased risk of heart disease, glaucoma and stroke as well as damage to the kidneys, feet and nerves.
Sleep Disorders & Driving:
Sleepiness due to any reason is a major cause of road crashes. Sleep apnoea, for example, has been shown to increase road crashes by five to seven fold. The effect on driving is similar to that seen with blood alcohol levels over 0.05. Around 1 in 4 men over the age of 30 have some form of a sleep disorder. Falling asleep during the day can be a sign that you have sleep disorder. One of the most common sleep disorders is Obstructive Sleep Apnea
Cardiovascular Disease & Driving
Approximately 50,000 Australians die each year due to heart disease. Cardiovascular disease can impair your driving ability & can lead to sudden loss of consciousness at the wheel. Cognitive deficts are also known to be related to cardiovascular diseases in some cases. The impact on your driving and your licence will depend on the type of disease and the severity, so it is best to check with your doctor. It may be that you have to see your doctor more often to check that your condition is well managed and it might mean that there are some restrictions are placed on your driving (i.e. a conditional licence).
Mental Illness & Driving
Mental illness affects around 20% of Australians at some time in their lives. Anxiety disorders and depression are the most common mental illnesses. About 10% of Australians suffer anxiety at any one time. Other conditions include schizophrenia, bipolar disorders and eating disorders. If untreated, mental illness can increase the risk of a crash by affecting concentration, decision making and other important aspects of the driving task. Stress can also affect safe driving ability and can aggravate existing illness, so try to be aware of the signs of stress and ask for help early. If mental illness is well managed you can continue to drive. In some cases a ‘conditional licence’ may be granted which may require regular reviews with a psychiatrist and/or that you take prescribed medication.
Cancer & Driving
1 in 3 Australians will develop cancer during their lifetime. The majority of cancers effect people from middle age onwards.The effect of cancer on driving depends on the type of cancer. Cancer treatment may affect your ability to drive because of the side effects such as fatigue, nausea and inability to concentrate for extended periods of time.
Medications & Driving
Many common medications can affect the ability to drive safely. When more than one medication is prescribed, the drugs may interact with unpredictable affects on driving ability.
* Source: www.ntc.gov.au