The health factor: Legal drugs

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If you’re not 100%, chances are all your social plans get put on hold because you just can't bear to face the music.

Being sick could also be a big problem if you’re planning to drive. If you’re under the weather the last thing you need is to crash your car. You also need to know that if you suffer from certain health conditions – or develop one – then you might need to let Roads and Maritime Services know about it.

Legal drugs

A lot of medicines prescribed by a doctor – and some you can pick up without prescription, can make it unsafe to drive. These are drugs that can affect your concentration, mood, coordination and reaction times at the wheel. You should never get behind the wheel if you’re taking a medicine with a warning label that tells you not to drive. These medicines include some pain killers and some of the drugs for blood pressure, nausea, allergies, inflammations and even fungal infections. Obviously tranquillisers, sedatives and sleeping pills can be a serious problem, but so can some diet pills and cold and flu medicines. To make sure you don’t get caught out follow these tips:

  • Read the label and any other info provided with your medicine
  • Never drive if you’re taking a medicine that can affect your driving skills
  • Never take someone else’s prescription medication – you don’t know how it will affect you
  • Ask your doctor or chemist about driving on your medication.

Temporary conditions

Many temporary conditions will prevent you from driving. For example, following an anaesthetic your doctor may advise you not to drive for 24 hours or more. Obviously sport injuries – like concussion, muscle tears and strains – can also prevent you from driving safely. In these situations, ask your doctor about whether you can drive and use your own common sense. In most cases your licence won’t be affected and you won’t need to report your condition to Roads and Maritime.

When to report an illness to Roads and Maritime

A range of health problems can affect your ability to drive safely, for example:

  • Blackouts or fainting
  • Vision problems
  • Epilepsy
  • Heart disease
  • Sleep disorders
  • Diabetes
  • Psychiatric disorders.

If you have one of these conditions – or any other illness that can affect your driving – you need to let Roads and Maritime know. For some conditions, you’ll need to have regular medical check ups. Your doctor will use national medical guidelines to work out whether you can drive safely. They will also have to fill in a Roads and Maritime medical report form. The medical standards are available on the Austroads website.

Many people are still able to drive despite having one of these conditions. However, you might need to restrict your driving in some way. Some people have their licence suspended or cancelled if the report shows that they shouldn’t be driving at all or if they haven’t had the medical check up required. Roads and Maritime make the final decision about your licence, they will consider the advice of your doctor as well as other factors such as the type of vehicle you drive (e.g. if you’re a bus driver).

Conditional licence

A conditional licence means that you can continue to drive as long as certain conditions or restrictions are met. Conditions may include only driving during daylight hours, wearing glasses or contact lenses when driving, or going to your doctor for a regular review and providing a report to Roads and Maritime. If you are issued with a conditional licence, it’s your responsibility to comply with any restrictions or other conditions and to be reviewed by your doctor as required.

Safety of friend or relative

If you know about someone whose health might be affecting their ability to drive safely, it is important to get them to talk to their doctor.