There is a wide range of vehicle modifications on the market which enable people with injury or disability to drive a vehicle and/or to access a vehicle.

Driver modifications:

  • spinner knobs and other steering aids
  • electronic steering aids eg steering knobs and satellite accelerators
  • push/pull and push/pat hand controls
  • over/under-ring accelerator
  • indicator extension levers
  • left foot accelerator
  • automatic transmission conversion

Passenger / vehicle access modifications:

  • wheelchair accessible conversions and fitouts
  • wheelchair hoists and ramps
  • lowered floors
  • wheelchair tie-downs and docking stations/pins
  • seating conversions
  • wheelchair and scooter storage

So What do I do?

The general process with any vehicle modification is as follows:

1) Have an OT assessment and prescription from a qualified Occupational Therapist (must be a driving trained OT to prescribe driver mods). Prescription will usually require the team of client, OT, driving instructor and vehicle modifier to work together to determine the best option.

Clients returning to driving
2) Have lessons with the rehabilitation driving instructor to develop competence with the modifications

3) Have an OT on-road re-assessment if necessary

4) OT liaises with the driving instructor and informs GP/specialist that you have passed

5) Return to GP/specialist to gain new medical certificate,

6) Take updated medical certificate to QLD Transport to have licence endorsed with conditions “M” for medical condition and “V” for vehicle modification

All clients
7) Modifications must be installed and authorised by an approved officer

8) Modifications must also be reported to QLD Transport and a modification plate installed

From early on in my career as an Occupational Therapist, I had an interest in pursuing driving assessment. I don’t know what it was exactly…. I don’t particularly enjoy driving that much myself – it tires me out… I’m not really into cars – just give me my reliable Toyota! My husband and I even got by with just one car for many years, and even for about six months after our first child came along.

I like that driving provides me independence and enables me to do the things I want to do.

It enables living. And for so many people, this is true.

In our uni training, OTs learn to develop a balance between independence and safety. In my first job at Blue Care in Brisbane, it became evident to me that many older adults were teetering on the edge of becoming unsafe with their driving (if they weren’t already over the edge).

It was around this time that with my family I personally went through the experience of navigating serious concerns regarding my beloved Nanny’s driving. My family were faced with the dilemma of balancing her independence with her (and the community’s) safety. Of course safety wins in this situation, and she eventually came to the decision to give up driving, and with the support and kindness of family she found other options that enabled her to keep some independence.

Changes in my career led me to managing serious injuries at WorkCover, where I was involved in funding purchase of a new vehicle for a lovely “Grey Nomad” who had sustained spinal injuries in a scooter accident. His main vehicle was a 70 foot caravan, so he needed to be supplied with a modified van that would enable him access in a powerdrive wheelchair, and possibly allow further modifications in the future if he were to progress to return to driving. This vehicle was no less than a full fit-out of a Mercedes Sprinter costing about $70K.

Worth. Every. Penny.

Shortly after this, I was working for a private return to work provider in Brisbane. I was asked to see a courier driver who had sustained a severe right hand injury during a car accident –

don’t worry, I don’t have a picture of his actual injury… in his words with Halloween approaching at the time, his hand looked like it could have been a party entree. It would take many surgeries and months of therapy to recover, and had a poor chance of regaining full function. I just remember talking to his case manager at WorkCover and saying, let’s organise a driving assessment – he will be able to drive an automatic car with a spinner knob and though he mightn’t be able to do his usual work duties, at least he can get to his hand therapy appointments and get some normality back into his life. Not to mention, get his confidence back after his accident. Sadly, I don’t know what ended up happening for this fellow.

Before long, I found myself sitting in the Driving Assessment role at Logan (without yet having done the training), so I took myself off to Sydney for 2 weeks in September 2012 and gained the OT driving assessor qualification. I loved every minute of the course, and then managed the Logan driving service. Staff changes and life have resulted in a break from driving assessment, but my passion for this speciality didn’t fade.

Finally, knee and foot injuries sustained by some men in my family – my husband, cousin and brother-in-law – have resulted in temporary, inconvenient periods of non-driving. My husband’s injured knee was the left one, so we were able to trade in our manual car for an automatic and he was able to drive, however my cousin and brother-in-law sustained right knee and foot injuries this year. I advised them that they can have a left-foot accelerator installed and have driving lessons, but with both fellows being ineligible for funding support, they have decided to wait things out. How great to have the option though! And certainly for someone sustaining a serious permanent injury – a quick modification and some driving lessons would be such a tiny price to pay to get your independence and freedom back.

I am so excited to be doing driving assessments again, and so excited for this new adventure in private practice, and to be “keeping you safe and well on the road”.

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Can I help you?

Please contact me at Driving Well Occupational Therapy if you or someone you know needs an OT driving assessment.


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