The Road Safety Authority says new guidelines on medical fitness to drive will be rolled out before the end of the year.
The RSA has launched a campaign to raise awareness among people with medical conditions about the affect their illness could have on their driving.
This is a relatively new area of research for the authority but studies from Canada show that road collisions among people with a medical condition decreased by 45% in cases where people were given the right advice about their illness and the effect it has on their driving.
The most common conditions of concern are heart disease, stroke and dementia, which mainly affect older drivers, but people with diabetes and sleep apnoea are also affected. The RSA says with the right advice and medication, people can continue to drive safely.
Director of the National Office for Traffic Medicine at the Royal College of Physicians Professor Desmond O'Neill says the campaign is not about taking older drivers off the roads.
“That has health implications in its own right. People who can’t drive can’t get to shops and services. We know from data in the United States that older people who stop driving are more likely to end up in a nursing home. Clearly it is important to get this balance right.”
Meanwhile, Professor Richard Marotolli from Yale University in the US says it is important to underline the fact that most older drivers are safe but there are key signs to look out for.
“From a family’s perspective it is important to monitor if people are having more difficulty with navigation, getting lost and noticing scratches or dents on a car. They are early signs that people may be starting to have difficulty.”
New guidelines for car and motorbike drivers will be issued before the end of the year and guidelines for truck and bus drivers will follow by the middle of 2013.