Lecture focuses on medical fitness to drive  


The Road Safety Authority (RSA) today, Monday 8 October, held its third Annual Academic Road Safety Lecture, marking the first day of ‘Irish Road Safety Week’ which runs until Sunday 14 October.

The lecture focused on the issue of ‘medical fitness to drive’ and also marked the first outing of the recently established National Office for Traffic Medicine which aims to raise awareness of this issue among road users and medical professionals.

Speakers at today’s lecture included Professor Desmond O’Neill, Director of the National Office for Traffic Medicine, RCPI / RSA and Professor Richard A Marottoli, Associate Professor in Geriatric Medicine at Yale University of Medicine. In his presentation, Professor O’Neill cited new research which showed that road collisions decreased by 45% in cases where appropriate advice was given to drivers with medical conditions.

Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport, Mr Leo Varadkar TD opened today’s lecture, addressing almost 150 delegates in the Royal College of Physicians of Ireland (RCPI).

“Traffic medicine is a relatively new area of specialty so I am delighted to be here at today’s lecture to hear the experience and research in this area from other countries. I am particularly pleased that the RCPI and the RSA, through the National Office for Traffic Medicine, are working towards the development of guidelines on medical fitness to drive. This will go a long way towards generating understanding among medical professionals and road-users of the effect of certain medical conditions and their treatment on the safety of road-users.”

Mr Noel Brett, Chief Executive, Road Safety Authority said: “The purpose of this year’s lecture is to review and discuss international best practice in an effort to develop similar standards in Ireland. Understanding the impact of an injury or disease, or the way certain medicines might affect driving, is vital to the safety of road-users and will have a significant impact on reducing collisions on our roads.”

“The RSA is currently working with the RCPI on the development of medical fitness to drive guidelines so that medical professionals and drivers can better understand the potential risks associated with certain conditions and medications. This is not about preventing people from driving, but promoting and prolonging safe driving by supporting medical practitioners and drivers in making decisions about their fitness to drive.”

At the lecture, Professor Desmond O’Neill, Director, National Office for Traffic Medicine, RCPI / RSA, cited recent research from Canada in his presentation, ‘Mobility and Traffic Safety, A Lifespan Approach’.

“We are currently looking at international best practice to gain an insight into how best to address this issue in Ireland. A recent study* conducted in Canada showed that road collisions decreased by 45% in cases where appropriate advice was given to drivers with medical conditions. The new guidelines that we are developing with the RSA will help to ensure that medical professionals and road-users are aware of the risks associated with certain conditions and treatments, and how they should be managed in the context of safe driving.”

Attendees at today’s lecture also heard from Professor Richard A. Marottoli, Associate Professor in Geriatric Medicine at Yale University of Medicine who presented his research into enhancing older driver safety. In his presentation, ‘Enhancing Older Driver Safety: Assess, Intervene, and Advise’, he outlined how no longer being able to drive can be detrimental to many older people and severely affect their mobility and independence.

Speaking at today’s lecture, Professor Marottoli said: “It is important to have a holistic view: how do we maintain out-of-home mobility while optimising safety? Most older drivers are safe. The difficult part for clinicians is to identify those at increased risk and helping their transition to driving less or not at all, and there is recent evidence for a number of interventions to help prolong safe driving.”

The lecture also signified the first outing of the recently established RCPI / RSA National Office for Traffic Medicine. An early priority for the Office has been the creation of fitness to drive guidelines for medical professionals as well as the necessary training and support to enable the smooth and consistent implementation of the rules. Guidelines relating to car and motorcycle drivers (known as Group 1 licence holders) are planned for issue before the end of the year. Work in relation to Group 2 licence holders (trucks and buses) is commencing and will be complete by mid 2013.

The RSA Lecture is the first in a series of events taking place during ‘Irish Road Safety Week’. Full details on all of the events taking place throughout the country are available on www.rsa.ie