New National Framework for Traffic Medicine in Ireland

The National Programme Office for Traffic Medicine, which was established by the Road Safety Authority (RSA) and the Royal College of Physicians of Ireland (RCPI), which was launched Friday 22nd February, ‘Sláinte agus Tiomáint - Medical Fitness to Drive Guidelines’ a new set of structured guidelines which will provide a national framework on standards in traffic medicine in Ireland.

‘Sláinte agus Tiomáint - Medical Fitness to Drive Guidelines’ relates to car and motorcycle drivers (known as *Group 1 licence holders) and will give clear guidance to medical professionals in implementing medical fitness to drive policies in Ireland. The updated guidelines reflect recent developments in medicine, such as improvements in diagnosis and treatment of medical conditions.

Commenting on the publication of the new Guidelines, Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport Leo Varadkar said: ‘I welcome the publication of these new Guidelines. As a doctor I know the value of having guidance like this available to medical professionals in making decisions about a patient’s medical fitness to drive. The creation of the National Office of Traffic Medicine by the Road Safety Authority and the Royal College of Physicians of Ireland shows just how seriously we are taking the issue of traffic medicine and road safety in Ireland. Medical fitness for drivers is governed by EU law but it’s up to each country to give suitable guidance to medical professionals as to how they are to be implemented, and these Guidelines were one of the first priority tasks for the new Office.”

Professor Desmond O’Neill, National Programme Director for Traffic Medicine, said that “For a driver, understanding the impact of an injury or a disease or the way certain medicines might affect driving is a vital aspect of road safety. Driver licensing authorities, doctors, Gardaí, legal professionals and others will use the new medical fitness to drive guidelines to make decisions regarding a person’s fitness to drive. However, it is important to state that the key objective of the new Medical Fitness to Drive Guidelines is to promote and prolong safe driving.”

Professor O’Neill added that “The new Guidelines allow most drivers with well-managed health conditions to continue to drive safely. As a driver, if you’re unsure about whether or not you should report a medical condition, you should seek advice from your doctor or health professional. It is important to remember that if you report your condition, it doesn’t necessarily mean you will lose your licence. It might mean that you have to see your doctor more often to check that your condition is well managed or it might mean that there are some restrictions placed on your driving.”

Noel Brett, Chief Executive, Road Safety Authority, speaking at the launch of the new medical fitness to drive Guidelines said, “Up to now, in Ireland there has been little structured advice and support for medical professionals in the field of driver fitness. The Office has now completed guidelines covering Group 1 drivers and they have been issued to the medical community together with a programme of training and support to ensure that they are smoothly implemented in practice.”

Mr Brett reassured drivers by adding that “It is important to say that while the Guidelines will give greater confidence to medical professionals in dealing with medical fitness issues, drivers have nothing to fear. The guidelines will enable medical professionals to give advice and support to drivers who may have concerns about any condition or disease. Indeed the whole ethos of the work in putting together the medical guidelines is to enable driver mobility to the greatest possible degree consistent with safety on our roads.”

Sláinte agus Tiomáint, the new medical fitness to drive guidelines, was developed by the National Programme Office for Traffic Medicine in consultation with RCPI Working Group on Traffic Medicine, which represents 36 organisations, including medical professionals, patient organisations, driver licensing authority, industry and drivers.

The guidelines have been distributed to all General Practitioners. Members of the public can download the new guidelines from the RSA website.

A public meeting to explain the new Guidelines to the public also took place in the Royal College of Physicians of Ireland, 6 Kildare St, Dublin on Friday 22 February 2013 at 6.30pm. Attendees had the opportunity to put their questions and concerns to an expert panel.

Speakers on the night:

  • Dr Declan Whelan, Chair of the RCPI Working Group on Traffic Medicine, on how the new guidelines were developed, how they will be used, the roles and responsibilities of drivers, health professionals and the licensing authority, and a how temporary, permanent and progressive conditions may affect driving.
  • Prof Desmond O’Neill, Director of the National Programme Office for Traffic Medicine and Consultant Physician in Geriatric and Stroke Medicine at Tallaght Hospital, on how specific conditions are affected by the new guidelines – Including diabetes mellitus and neurological, cardiovascular, psychiatric, visual, renal, respiratory and sleep disorders.
  • Dr Gerry Cummins, a practicing GP in Navan, Co Meath and representative of the Irish College of General Practitioners on the RCPI Working Group for Traffic Medicine, on how GPs will use the new guidelines to support their patients’ safe mobility.

If you would like to watch a video of this conference please click here.