Can I Drive With This Plaster Cast? How do know your drivers are ‘Safe to Drive’ after an injury? Written by Les Hammond MAIRSO
Drivers who experience a physical injury through a collision, sporting activity or other means seem to have no definitive sign off from the medical profession to pronounce them safe to drive after immediate treatment! In the best case scenario a driver who has been in a cast or taking medication may be advised not to: ‘drink alcohol, drive or ride a bicycle or operate machinery’, this is usually advised for a stipulated period, but there is no guidance of how to actually get signed off as safe at the end of the no drive period where the driver has been prevented using a vehicle. Drivers who are wearing plaster casts on their arms, legs and with neck braces and eye patches can be observed driving on the public roads, logically it follows that there must be a limitation to a drivers head or limb movement with the potential limitation of vehicle control and vision restriction with these treatments, again have these drivers been told not to drive or is it being left up to them? The same dilemma occurs if a driver has been prescribed or is taking over the counter medication, this can affect different people different ways so again there is no definitive sign off, can I drive whilst taking a flu remedy?
Currently where healthcare professionals are prescribing or supplying medicines they do try to take account of the risks of medicines (such as whether a patient’s driving may be impaired by their medicines) and sometimes advise accordingly. This advice, usually verbal, is normally ‘you can drive when you feel you are up to it’, or ‘you can drive when you feel you can drive safely’ or even “you should not drive” and as such does not provide ‘evidenced advice’, this unfortunately means that the driver may commence driving when they are actually not ready or safe to do so, especially if they feel under an obligation to drive either from self or work pressurisation. It would be very difficult to prove that the patient had received a verbal advice not to drive unless their medical notes were suitably endorsed!
Some progress is being made on the prescribed and purchased medication front, a new offence of driving with certain controlled drugs in excessive levels in the body came into force in March 2015 and is additional to the current rules on drug impaired driving and fitness to drive, it also provides a defence for patients taking their medicines in accordance with instructions. Luckily the number of drivers put in this position is relatively small taken as part of the overall driving population and this may make the situation manageable for the majority of drivers on our roads, company vehicle drivers.
Companies should consider adding to their existing post collision and drug driving polices to manage the obvious risk of these types of situations.
Driving After Being Injured or Unwell
1. Drivers are expected to adhere to the advice and guidance issued by Hospitals GP’s and Pharmacists in reference to the limitations of any medical treatment and, dose level and frequency of prescribed or purchased medication
2. If you have been injured or on medication that has meant that you have been unable to drive any vehicle for a period of time and you want to start driving again, you must initially seek or check advice from your Hospital/GP/Pharmacist to ensure you are not still under instructions not to drive and note the period when this restriction expires.
3. Before this period has expired drivers must contact their line manager and before the period expiry date arrange for an accompanied drive by a responsible person to
4. The assessor must understand that they are reporting on the drivers safety and ability to take proper control of the vehicle at all times during the assessment, a declaration to this effect must be recorded and signed and dated by both driver and assessor
5. If the assessment is unsuccessful and the assessor thinks the driver is still adversely affected by the medical treatment a further assessment may be required, the drivers line manager must be immediately informed of this outcome
6. After a successful assessment the assessor should send the completed assessment to their line manager to complete the audit trail
* if such a person is not willing or available to perform this function it can be outsourced to a driver training provider using qualified Fleet Trainers or personnel trained to carry out this function.
I have seen a driver walk out of a fracture clinic with both arms in plaster holding their car keys and intending to drive home!, another example is a driver who had his right leg in plaster and when asked about driving home he said “it’s OK I have an automatic and can use my left foot! The police utilise a reporting form at the scene of serious collisions called a STATS19 (Sept 2011) and this form only records certain relevant parameters such as: ‘Impaired by drugs (illicit or medicinal)’ ‘Illness or disability, mental or physical’ as well as ‘Journey as part of work’. This provides scant information as to how prevalent collisions are where the driver is inhibited by medical treatment especially from bandaging, eye patches or plaster application.
These may be extreme cases but by making a few logical and simple alterations to company Over the Counter Medication and Post Collision policies and alerting drivers to these requirements company fleet managers can reduce the possibility of drivers trying to drive whilst unsafe, and the potential redress from third parties and police in the event of a collision, it will show that the company is taking every reasonable and practicable steps to safeguard employees and other road users. It is a moot point whether an insurance company would pay out if these situations occurred and if the occurrence would constitute a management failure if policy and audit trail did not accommodate such safeguards!
It is vital that fleet managers remain alert to risk potentials for their drivers; they should keep anyone driving for work educated and review their policies and procedures in order to maintain