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Medical Conditions and Driving

3 min read
Certain medical problems can affect your ability to drive. Find out what they are.

Alcohol isn’t the only thing that impairs your driving ability. There are numerous medical conditions that can affect your driving judgement. These include vision problems, mental disorders, epilepsy as well as conditions that make one liable to sudden attacks of disabling giddiness or fainting.

In Singapore, if you are 65 years old and above, you need to be certified medically fit to drive before your licence can be renewed. If you have a medical condition or disability that may affect your driving ability, you must be certified fit to drive by a medical practitioner — regardless of whether you are above or below age 65. You may also be required to undergo further assessment by authorised driving testers.

If you don’t comply and you get into an accident, you will be charged with committing a negligent or rash act under the penal code. This means you could be arrested at the scene of the offence!

Are You Fit To Drive?

1. Can you see clearly?
The law requires that drivers must be able to read vehicle identification marks and distinguish the colours red, amber and green from a distance of 25m. Eye problems such as cataracts and macular degeneration may make it difficult to see road signs, pedestrians and objects on the road.

Cataract is the clouding of the eye’s natural lens, which causes blurred vision. It is the most common cause of vision loss in people over 40. Macular degeneration is a deterioration of the eye’s retina, which causes distortion in your central field of vision and makes objects appear less sharp and defined. It is one of the causes of vision loss in people aged over 60.

2. Can you react to situations swiftly?
Conditions such as dementia impair judgement, memory and decision-making skills, would berisky and dangerous for the driver as well as other road users.

3. Are you in total control?
If you suffer from epilepsy, you are prone to seizures. This neurological disorder may have been present since birth or developed after a brain injury or stroke. Driving with uncontrolled epilepsy is extremely risky as seizures may result in temporary loss of awareness or consciousness.

Similarly, drivers with diabetes whorequire treatment with insulin need to be aware of the onset of hypoglycaemia. Low blood sugar can result in sudden attacks of giddiness or fainting, which could put the driver and other road users at risk. Diabetic patients must also commit to regular eye checks as they are at risk of suffering from diabetic retinopathy, which impairs their eyesight.

4. Do you know your mind and body?
Potentially disabling diseases such as heart conditions, vertigo, psychiatric disorders, multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease, and musculoskeletal disorders can severely compromise your judgement and ability to react. Regular health checks should give you a good assessment of your mental and physical fitness. Being prepared allows you to take precautions and judge your fitness to drive.

Be Fit For Driving Again

Being diagnosed with a medical condition does not necessarily mean you must give up driving. You can learn or return to driving through programmes offered by the occupational therapy divisions of Tan Tock Seng Hospital (TTSH) and JurongHealth.  These programmes are designed to assess your ability to return to driving safely. You can get advice to modify your vehicle or attend driving rehabilitation lessons to return to driving safely. The programmes are suitable for those with physical conditions such as limb weakness; cognitive impairments from brain injury, dementia and stroke; as well as congenital and childhood illnesses such as cerebral palsy and polio.