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Do I need a practical driving assessment?

A driving assessment can confirm your practical driving ability and may be useful if DVLA are making medical inquiries. If you need adapted vehicle controls it can identify the most suitable adaptation and would allow you to try alternative controls.

The aim of an assessment is to check physical and cognitive ability to drive a vehicle in safety and comfort and to offer advice on aids and adaptations that may assist driving.

If your doctor has any doubts about your practical ability to drive safely he may suggest a referral for an assessment to confirm your ability. If you or your family have any concerns about your driving ability you can self refer to your local “Driving Mobility” assessment centre. If you need to use a new method of control to drive or if you think you may need adapted controls, again you can self refer or if you are a Motability customer (or intend to become one) you could contact Motability (0300 456 4566) and ask to be referred for a driving assessment.

It is your responsibility as a driving licence holder to notify DVLA if you develop a ‘notifiable’ medical condition  or disability (anything that could affect your ability to drive safely) or if a condition or disability has got worse since you got your licence. See the previous page “Does DVLA need to be notified” for details.

Following notification DVLA may refer you for a Driving Mobility Assessment as part of their medical enquiries once the questionnaire has been completed; a self referral may though result in the assessment taking place more quickly and the assessment report could then be sent to DVLA to aid their medical enquiries and speed up the process.

There is normally a charge for a driving assessment, contact your local centre for details; Motability and DVLA referrals are currently free of charge and often an NHS referral from your doctor will be at a reduced charge or may even be free of charge.

You must have current driving entitlement to undertake an in-car assessment, a non driving assessment can be undertaken for non-licence holders to establish potential for returning to driving  and a limited in-car assessment may be possible at centres with off road facilities. If your licence has expired or if you voluntarily surrendered it to DVLA you may still have entitlement to drive under Section 88 of the Road Traffic Act 1988, so long as you have submitted a valid application to DVLA to renew your licence and your doctor has confirmed your medical fitness to drive, this will allow you to undertake a full on-road Driving Mobility Assessment. If your driving licence has been revoked by DVLA you would not be eligible for Section 88 and would need to apply to DVLA for your licence to be reinstated; they may consider issuing a temporary licence, referred to as a Provisional Disability Assessment Licence (PDAL), to allow you to complete a Driving Mobility Assessment, DVLA would need to refer you for this type of assessment.

The Assessment Centre Team will consider all aspects of driving including medical fitness, vision, awareness, reactions and decision-making as well as physical ability to operate the controls.

Assessment Centre staff are very experienced in putting clients at their ease and do their utmost to be supportive to individual drivers to help them retain or increase their independent mobility wherever possible. Following the assessment all clients receive verbal advice as well as a written report.

Attending for an assessment isn’t like taking a driving test! The Assessment Centre staff are there to help and support you.

“What should I expect if I’m invited for a driving assessment?”

Angela Hutchinson is a Driving Mobility centre manager in Belfast, she explains what happens if you’re invited for an assessment:

At the centre, we assess people’s ability to drive safely. Someone is usually referred to us from the DVA (in Northern Ireland) after they have declared a medical condition, such as Parkinson’s (In England, Scotland and Wales, referrals are made by the DVLA).

Ahead of your assessment, I’d recommend seeing an optician, even if you don’t wear glasses. On the day, you’ll be asked to read a number plate at the minimum legal distance (20 metres). An optician will be able to tell you if your vision meets the standard for driving.

On the assessment day

Your assessor will introduce themselves and explain what the assessment will involve. This is also a good opportunity for you to talk about how your medical condition affects you and explain any concerns you may have.

You will then have an interview and clinical assessment with one of our Occupational Therapists; this will include a eyesight test, an investigation of your physical ability to operate the controls of a car, reaction tests to see how quickly you can respond and some basic cognitive tests to look at your thinking ability.

Afterwards, you’ll go for a drive with your assessor for about 40 minutes, usually in a centre vehicle. You’ll drive in different traffic conditions such as down a busy high street or on a dual carriageway, and be asked to perform a number of tasks, like making left and right turns and braking. This allows your assessor to check both your physical and cognitive ability to drive safely.

Most centres allow a two or three hour slot for an assessment. So if you need a break perhaps because you’re in pain or are fatigued, you’re able to do so.

At the end of the assessment

Once you’ve finished the assessment, your assessor may tell you they’re happy with your driving and you’ve essentially passed, or if you would benefit from adaptations in your car.

There are lots of different adaptations that can be made. For example, if you have a tremor which affects your braking foot, we could look at moving the brake to the steering wheel unit.

Some people fail the assessment because the assessor believes they can’t drive safely at the current time. If you do fail, I would always recommend coming back for another assessment if your condition improves – perhaps because you’re taking a different medication.

Driving Mobility centres

More broadly, mobility centres are able to advise drivers, and I’d encourage people to get in touch with us if you have questions or concerns around your driving. Our main purpose is to keep people independent and on the road as long as they can do so safely, and there are lots of things we can suggest to support that.

Updated 14.06.2023