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We offer driving assessments to drivers of all ages from 16 if you are in receipt of the Personal Independence Payment (PIP), 17 for others, and there is no upper age limit. The service is for experienced and learner drivers, or provisional licence holders who have not yet started to learn to drive. Our driving assessments take place on our purpose built track, as well as on the public highway.  During the assessments we are able to give advice on adaptations that could benefit the driver.

We offer the drivers advice on getting in and out of the vehicle, and wheelchair stowage if necessary. Also we can provide specialist driving tuition to people after their driving assessment.

What happens when I arrive?

On arrival you will be welcomed and introduced to your assessment team. The assessment team consists of a Mobility Clinician and Driving Adviser. All assessment staff are experienced in the specialty of driving and disability / medical conditions. The Mobility Clinicians have professional backgrounds in Occupational Therapy, Nursing or Physiotherapy and our Driving Advisers are Department for Transport Approved Driving Instructors.

The assessment team will explain the process of the appointment, and will ask for your consent to the assessment proceeding.

What does the assessment involve?

The assessment team are aware that you may be anxious when attending for assessment and will do their utmost to put you at your ease. At any point in the assessment, if you have any questions please do not hesitate to ask the team.

Number Plate Test

*You will be asked to read a car number plate from the minimum distance as required by The Road Traffic Act 1988, which is 20 metres. As a very approximate guide, this is about 5 car lengths. If you need corrective spectacles or contact lenses to meet the standard, these must be worn at assessment.

If you are unable to read the number plate from the required distance the assessment cannot proceed, and you will be advised to stop driving (if you hold a current licence) with immediate effect, as you will be committing a Road Traffic offence. Therefore, if you think you may have any difficulty with this, it is vital that you visit your optician before your appointment.

Before any driving takes place, there will be a discussion with the Mobility Clinician and Driving Adviser. This is a very important part of the assessment process and enables the team to learn more about your needs as a driver. You will be asked about what driving you may have done in the past and what you may currently do; we will need to see your driving licence, or letter from the DVLA confirming your entitlement to drive.

The assessment team will consider your medical fitness, vision, range of movement, strength and co-ordination. The Mobility Clinician may also ask you to carry out some basic tests which look at how you interpret information.

What happens during the driving part of the assessment?

Unless there is any reason to prevent you from proceeding to the driving part of the assessment, the in car assessment will follow. The vehicle(s), type of control and any adaptations to be used or demonstrated will be discussed with you.

Driving assessments take place in the Centre’s own vehicles. We have a purpose-built driving track area in the grounds of Walkergate Park, Newcastle upon Tyne, where you can become familiar with the Centre’s vehicle and where basic vehicle control skills are assessed. This is also useful for novice drivers who have not driven before, or for people who have not driven for a lengthy period of time. At our Penrith Outreach service, we utilise the quiet road circuit on a nearby industrial estate for the familiarisation time, prior to driving on the open road.  We have a selection of different vehicles, manual and automatic transmission, with various adaptations.

If you are getting used to a new method of control for the first time, the assessment may be restricted to the driving track only, and we may advise that you return for the on road assessment at a later date.

If considered safe to do so, the drive will then proceed on to the public roads. This enables the team to assess your interaction with other road users, how you forward plan, anticipate the actions of others, and deal with the complexities of driving. The public road route covers a variety of road and traffic features, and can take an average of 40 minutes. We are looking for evidence of safe driving skills; the assessment is not a driving test.

Can I use my own car for the assessment?

Clients are not permitted to use their own car for their assessment. We provide a range of vehicles, and for safety reasons they are all dual controlled, and insured by Northumberland, Tyne and Wear NHS Foundation Trust for the purpose of your driving assessment.

We understand the assessment vehicle may not be familiar to you, but we find that most people manage to use our vehicles following a period of familiarisation on the driving track area to get used to a different car. We have both manual and automatic vehicles, of various sizes. If you have any concerns about this, please do not hesitate to discuss with the assessment team on the day of your assessment.

What happens after the drive?

When you return to the Centre from your drive, the Mobility Clinician and Driving Adviser will have a brief discussion together to consider the evidence from the drive. They will then discuss their recommendations with you.

Possible outcomes of the assessment may be:

• You are recommended as being suitable to drive with, or without vehicle adaptations.

• You are recommended to return to North East Drive Mobility for review following a period of driving tuition. If this is the case, we can advise you on how to obtain suitable driving tuition.

• You are recommended not to drive. Although we will try to find ways for you to be able to drive safely, there is a possibility, in the interests of road safety that the assessment team may recommend that you should not drive.

A written report from the assessment team detailing the recommendations and advice from the assessment will be sent to you by post as soon as possible after the assessment.

How long does the assessment take?

On average the assessment takes between 2½ and 3 hours.