Having a disability or medical condition and going for your driver licence can sometimes be a lengthy process and a bit different to the average person, but definitely worth it. In my experience obtaining information about this process was difficult and I only learnt it from talking to different people. I hope this post will help you learn a bit more about the process. My name is Evan, I am currently 19 years old, have my Provision P2 driver licence, and have Cerebral Palsy affecting my right side. Getting my licence has given me a lot more independence.
The first step was getting my learner permit once I turned 16 years old, just like everyone else. Having a disability or medical condition does not affect getting your learner licence. Getting your learner licence involves sitting a multiple choice computer test at your local Roads and Maritime Services (RMS) service centre. You can freely book your test online at the RMS website, or over the phone. I suggest you study the online booklet and do the practice test several times to get used to the questions being asked. This will help you pass the test first go. If you don't pass the test first go, it is not a worry, you can always try again until you get it.
Once you have successfully got your learner permit you will need to sit for a driving assessment. The driving assessment will help you determine if you need any modifications to your vehicle, and what modifications they might be. I had my driving assessment done at Calvary Health Care in Kogarah, a suburb of Sydney in Australia. In the driving assessment they will first ask you questions regarding your condition, so they can get a bit more of an idea of how it may affect your driving and what modifications may be needed. The second part was a simulated computer program to test my peripheral vision. The final part, my favourite, was getting behind the wheel of a car. The assessor will determine what modifications you might need, and get you to try driving the car. They may test out different modifications with you until they get the right one. Don’t be nervous about your first drive, the assessor will also have car controls in the passenger seat to help you.
Once your driving assessment is complete, the assessor will submit any required modifications or provisions to the RMS. My modifications included the use of a left foot pedal and a steering knob.
An extra provision that was added to my licence was that I must drive with a qualified driving instructor at all times. These provisions will be printed onto your licence. A week or two after your assessment you can pick up your new licence from your local RMS.
The next step is fun, starting doing your learner driving hours! Before you can sit your Provisional P1 (or red Ps) driving test you must complete a total of 120 hours of driving. Since I was restricted to driving with an instructor I did some driving lessons. Remember, a 1 hour driving lesson counts as 3 hours towards your total 120 hours. If you are required to drive with modifications, you will not be able to drive with any driving instructor as they would not have the modification installed on their vehicle. Calvary Health Care also offer driving lessons with modifications fitted to the vehicle. I did my driving lessons through a private instructor who I found through a friend. After 10 hours of driving lessons my instructor felt happy that I could drive without a qualified instructor. He notified the RMS, who then changed the provision on my learner driver licence. This now meant that I could drive with my parents supervising.
I now had to complete my remaining driving hours with my parents. But before I could do that, I needed a vehicle with my modifications on it. It is the law for the modifications to be removable, and for the vehicle to be driven normally. But depending on the modification, it is generally not temporarily transferable between cars. As it was not feasible to install modifications on my parents’ car, I had to save up to buy my first car! Once I had my own car, I had my required modifications installed onto it. There are many companies that will install the modifications, so I suggest getting multiple quotes before settling on an installer. Just a note, the modifications can be expensive, but they will last a long time.
Once I had my own car I could now complete my driving hours. I completed my driving hours quite quickly with the help of my grandfather who supervised me. He drove with me to university and hung around for the day to drive home with me. This drive was 40 mins to 1 hour each day, each way, so as you imagine, I got them done quickly.
After completing 120 hours of driving, and holding your learner licence for one year, you can legally sit your Provision P1 driving test. If you have modifications on your vehicle you will be required to complete your driving test with a special instructor. These instructors aren't available at every RMS service centre, so I suggest ringing the RMS to find your closest centre. You can then book your driving test. I would recommend completing some driving lessons with an instructor just before your test as they will help you improve the little things such as parking and checking your blind spots. I was fortunate enough to pass my driving test first go, but sometimes it may take a few tries as the assessors can be very strict. This whole process took me about 2 years to get my red Ps. After initially getting your learner licence you have 5 years before it expires to get you red Ps, so don't stress.
After holding your red Ps for one year you can go for you Provisional P2 licence, or green Ps. This test involves a computer simulated driving test, similar to the one I sat in my initial driving assessment. There are no restrictions with this test and you can book this test online or over the phone with any RMS service centre.
After holding your green Ps for 2 years you can sit for your full driver licence. I have currently had my green Ps for nearly 1 year with another year to go, so I am not too sure on what the test will hold. But I have heard from friends that it is a mixture between the red and green Ps test.
The RMS also requires that I get a medical report annually to confirm that I am still fit to drive. This may also be the case for you, and it can be done with your general practitioner (GP) or a specialist doctor.
I know this may seem like a long process, but here is a quick summary:
- Obtain learner licence
- Get driving assessment completed
- Complete driving lessons
- Get modifications fitted onto a vehicle
- Complete 120 driving hours
- Sit red Ps test
- Sit green Ps test after 1 year
- Sit full licence test after 2 years
I hope this information has helped you in your quest for independence and obtaining your driver licence.