Is it Legal to Drive with a Broken Arm? (2021 update)
Although it is technically legal to drive with a broken arm, this may vary depending on your circumstances. Find out more here.
Driving a motor vehicle requires you to be in control of your vehicle at all times. To protect motorists, strict laws apply that cover things such as speed limits and what you can consume before driving. However, if you compromise your ability to drive in any way, you can get into trouble. A good example of this is using your mobile phone.
When it comes to obstructions that can’t be helped, such as having a broken arm, the legal requirements are different. This also to other medical conditions, which may require you to take a driving test to determine your driving ability. This can be difficult to manage if driving is your main way of getting around. However, it’s important not to put yourself or others on the road at risk. In this article, we’ll explain whether you can drive with a broken arm and what the legal requirements are.
Driving with a cast
There is no law that explicitly prohibits you from driving a car with a broken arm. However, if you feel that you’re finding it difficult to drive safely with your cast on, then you should refrain from getting behind the wheel. If you break your arm and need to wear a cast you’ll first need to talk to your doctor before getting behind the wheel. Your doctor will be able to determine whether you are still fit to drive and how much of an impact your injury will have on your ability to operate your car. If they determine that you shouldn’t be driving, you must comply and arrange alternate ways to get around. Your doctor may also issue you with a note confirming your fitness to drive in case you get pulled over.
A cast on your arm may not impede your ability to grasp your steering wheel, but consider what other functions your car has. Will you be able to use the gear shift and steer at the same time? Roads and Maritime Services (RMS) NSW states that when driving, you “must be able to operate all vehicle controls and have a hand on the steering wheel at all times.” When this is considered, driving with a broken arm will make driving a manual vehicle virtually impossible. Another important thing to consider is your insurance. It’s possible that your insurance company will investigate the cause of an accident if you were injured when it occurred. If it’s found that your broken arm was the main cause of the accident, you may not be covered.
Greg has broken his arm while playing football but needs to use his car to drive to work every day during the week. Greg has broken his wrist, impacting his ability to grip his steering wheel. Greg’s doctor has advised him that he cannot drive for at least 4 weeks. This is because Greg’s inability to turn the wheel quickly may lead to a car accident. Greg would not be breaking the law if he drove, but if he got into an accident he may be liable.
Being fit to drive
Roads and Maritime Services (RMS) need to be certain that all drivers are medically fit and competent to drive and operate a vehicle. For example, older drivers, or people with a medical condition may have to take regular tests to ensure they are fit to drive. Some common medical conditions which may affect your driving are:
- Vision impairments
- Hearing impairments
- Sleep disorders
- Heart disease
- Neurological or psychological disorders
A number of conditions, such as a broken arm can affect your ability to drive safely. A broken arm is self-limiting which means it does not impact the status of your license, regardless of what level license you have. This means that you don’t need to inform the licensing authority if you break your arm. The same rule applies if you have a cast on your leg. You may feel fine to drive, but wearing a cast may impact your ability to reach the brake and accelerator pedals.
Taking the Practical Driver Assessment
If a health professional is unsure of your capacity to drive, they may ask you to take a practical driver assessment. This assessment is not a test of your competency to drive, such as those which are routinely conducted by the driver licensing authorities to obtain or renew your license. Rather, the practical driver assessment is merely a test to assess the impact of your injury on your driving skills such as vehicle handling. The tests are usually conducted by an occupational therapist, but can also but conducted by other approved professionals such as training providers for commercial vehicles. It can be used to determine the scope of your driving conditions during the injured period and can also assist in determining whether vehicle modifications are necessary.
Depending on the individual situation, the assessments may involve evaluation of:
- Whether you need specialised equipment or vehicle modifications
- Your ability to control the motor vehicle
- Your functional status including cognitive function, physical strength, reaction time, insight level and ability to self-monitor your driving
- How necessary driving is
- Your understanding of traffic laws
The first thing to do if you break your arm and want to know whether you are still legally able to drive is to see your doctor. Your doctor will assess the extent of your injury and how obstructive your cast is to your day-to-day activities. Your doctor will advise you as to whether you can drive, what restrictions or parameters you should adhere to, and whether you need to take a practical drivers assessment to determine the scope of your driving privileges. You should also use your own judgement to determine whether you feel you have the capacity to drive. Remember, if you drive and cause an accident, you’ll face criminal penalties.
Rhys is a Paralegal at Lawpath in the content team. Pursuing his interest in digital marketing and commercial law, he has completed a law degree at the University of New South Wales and is involved in online media.