Element 1.1.2 of the National Standards Car asks drivers to make sure they are fit to drive:
You must be able to
assess whether your ability to drive safely and legally is affected by
- your emotional state
- a short or long-term physical condition
I work with people living with a range of neurodiverse conditions (dyslexia, dyspraxia, ASD, etc.), conditions that can randomly temporarily affect a person’s ability to drive safely. I encourage them to monitor their state of mind both before and whilst driving. They become used to cancelling lessons, sometimes at very short notice, and occasionally abandoning lessons part-way through. They also become used to knowing when they should not drive on their own, maybe asking another suitably insured driver to accompany them, or deciding not to drive at all.
Neurodiversity can affect people in different ways. For example, a driver may be safe to drive routes they know well, but find it impossibly stressfull to cope with the uncertainty of route changes during a driving test. Physical illness, taking mind-altering drugs, or drinking can usually be predicted or avoided. It is often impossible for someone with a neurodiverse condition to predict their suitability to drive three working days in advance (the penalty-free cancellation period for practical driving tests). Tiredness is often a factor, but this may not be the consequence of long working hours or a late or disturbed nights’ sleep.
My experience leads me to believe such people suffer from a higher rate of test failure as they feel pressured into attending pre-arranged test appointments even when they would otherwise not drive. I am not aware of any simple mechanism that allows for Neurodiverse candidates to act responsibly and pull out of a practical driving test at the last minute, or to abandon part-way through, without financial penalty.
I do see practical difficulties for the DVSA. Inevitably such a facility would be abused without some form of independent external monitoring. However, there is already the opportunity for neurodiverse candidates to declare their condition at the time of test booking. In much the same way as for the Theory Test, the DVSA could require a statement from an independent qualified professional – most young people today will have a statement of educational need from school or college that both labels their condition and indicates the support they need to demonstrate their abilities.
It is time for the DVSA’s test cancellation policy to recognise this level of responsibility towards driving on the part of people with well-managed neurodiverse conditions. It seems to me inequitable to, quite correctly, require people to demonstrate such a responsible attitude towards their driving, but not allow for it in the driving test.