An autistic Australian mother has lashed out at the new driving licence standard which requires neurodivergent Aussies to undergo medical testing.
The 2022 Assessing Fitness to Drive standards now lists autism as a medical condition that could impact someone’s driving, placing it alongside conditions like epilepsy and eye disorders.
Melbourne mum-of-two Emily Geraghty said she’d been tagged in several articles about ‘legislations with driving and being neurospicy’ and shared her thoughts in a video on Friday.
‘Does the government not realise, for late diagnosed people, we were autistic when we sat the original test,’ she said.
‘If I can sit and do a test with a woman literally perceiving me for 35 to 40 minutes and not have a meltdown, babe, we’ll be right.’
Ms Geraghty addressed two specific concerns licencing authorities listed about autistic drivers, that they are unable to read or send facial cues and may ‘meltdown’ while behind the wheel.
‘I think my favourite reason that they gave for this was autistic people not being able to pick up on the facial cues of other drivers. What?!,’ she said.
‘Whose facial cues are we picking up when we’re driving? What? John at the lights next to me having a good dig at his nose?
‘Can’t forget neurotypical Nathan getting aggro behind me because I’m actually doing the speed limit.’
On the topic of sticking to road rules, Ms Geraghty highlighted why autistic drivers might be better than the neurotypical.
‘Newsflash, autism comes with the little thing. It’s called cognitive rigidity, so we’re really black and white about following rules. Including road rules,’ she said.
Autistic Melbourne mum-of-two Emily Geraghty (above) lashed out at new driving requirements for neurodivergent people to undergo medical testing
She added the chance of an autistic driver having a meltdown behind the wheel was unlikely as many largely stick to familiar roads.
‘The other reason was meltdowns, that one I understand a little bit more than the facial cues but let’s be realistic,’ she said.
‘It’s a thing where we have repetitive behaviours. I’m telling you, most of us take the same routes to places, all day every day.’
The updated standards highlight potential challenges for drivers with autism, such as difficulty maintaining attention, adapting to unexpected changes on the road, and interpreting non-verbal cues from other drivers.
As a result, drivers with autism are now required to disclose their condition and may need to undergo a medical screening, depending on the regulations of their respective states, to ensure their fitness to drive.
This places many Australians with autism, especially those diagnosed later in life, in a confusing legal limbo, especially for those who earned their full driver’s licenses years or decades prior to their autism diagnosis.
According to Austroads, one of the groups who develops the guidelines, the expectation is that ‘a person with a condition that may impair safe driving will need to report and be assessed’.
Assessments of driving fitness differ between jurisdictions. General practitioners frequently recommend an on-road evaluation conducted by an occupational therapy driver assessor, typically priced at approximately $1500. In case of test failure, subsequent sessions for ‘driving rehab’ can range between $130 and $150 each.
Here is how the guidelines are interpreted by each state and territory:
The Department of Transport and Main Roads requires that drivers obtain and provide a medical clearance certificate from a doctor confirming that they can drive.
If anyone with a condition listed in the 2022 Assessing Fitness to Drive rulebook is caught out without one they are liable for a $9,288 fine and can have their licence cancelled.
Drivers are required to report any relevant health conditions that may have an impact on their ability to drive and it is advised that ‘autism should be disclosed’.
Any failure to report such a condition can result in a $500 fine.
Drivers are legally required to report if they have or develop, a long-term medical condition, disability, or injury that could affect their fitness to drive.
The government might then send out a letter asking for a medical report with further instruction on how a driver can keep their licence.
New South Wales
Autistic drivers are not required to report their condition to Transport for NSW unless it affects their driving in which case it is a legal requirement to do so.
Drivers will then be asked to provide a medical assessment for Fitness to Drive from their doctor or health specialist and the condition may be placed on their licence.
Similar to NSW, drivers in SA are not required to reveal their diagnosis immediately but must lawfully do so if it has the ability to impact their driving.
Health professionals also have a mandatory obligation to report drivers they deem medically unfit to drive after the diagnosis period.
Only drivers with a disability or health condition which affects their driving are required to inform the Registrar of Motor Vehicles.
Health professionals again have a mandatory obligation to report drivers they deem medically unfit to drive.
Drivers are legally required to report any long-term health condition they have that might impact their driving.
Australian Capital Territory
All drivers are legally required to report any long-term health condition or disability that may impair their ability to drive to Access Canberra.