Oh VicRoads, are you trying to destroy me? Really?
With all that has been going on with the issues surrounding the new driving and diabetes guidelines; with all the inconvenience you are causing for people who are living with diabetes each and every day – all the hoops you are making us jump through; all the bureaucracy you have built in for us to simply hold a drivers’ licence, wouldn’t it be nice that just for once you could be a little – just a little – accommodating?
And yet, when I jump through each and every hoop and call you to ask you for an extension on getting my eye review form in I am told no. An extension will not be granted because my medical review form (different to the eye review form) was one day late.
I am unsure as to why I have to submit an eye medical review – I’ve never had to do that before. My eyes have been stable for years. This was clearly documented on my medical review form.
The woman I spoke with at VicRoads told me that if they did not receive my report on time, I would be issued a letter the following day telling me my licence was suspended. However, according to her, I have a two week grace period in which I can still drive. So why not simply give me an extra week so that I can get the form in on time? I have made an appointment to see my ophthalmologist, but of course, could not get a time until the day after the report is due. (He’s away at the moment as is half of Australia ‘cause it’s – you know – Summer holidays).
My driving record speaks for itself as does my diabetes record. I know more about how safe it is for me to get behind the wheel of a car than most people. I check my BGL, I make sure I travel with food in case I go low, I wear a CGMS that alarms not only if I am low, but if my BGL is dropping too quickly so I can prevent a hypo.
And never before have I been late with a review.
So – here’s some advice for everyone after the trials and tribulations I have dealt with in the last few months with Vic Roads:
- Regardless of when you have an appointment with your health professional to fill in your medical review form, call VicRoads the second you receive your letter requesting a review and tell them that you need an extension. There are dozens of reasons that this may actually occur – appointment is cancelled, doctor takes extra time to send the report, you don’t make it to the post office on time etc etc.
- If you do not get the report in by the due date, you will receive a letter from VicRoads warning you of the suspension which will take effect in two weeks. You cannot ask for an extension at this time; it’s too late. If you think you’ll need extra time, call BEFORE the due date of the original letter (usually 8 weeks from the date of the letter) and ask for the extension.
- Remember that it takes time for the medical review team to process your review. So even if you do get it in on time, there could be a delay in you getting the ‘all clear’. Obviously, this isn’t a problem if you get it in way before the due date, but if you’re just sneaking it in on time, it could result in your licence being suspended. I actually took my last review form into VicRoads and asked to speak with someone from the medical review team and pretty much demanded that they approve it that day.
- Off the top of your head, do you know the date your driver’s licence expires? No cheating – do you know? I had no idea and found out the hard way one morning when a police car pulled me over as I was driving to work. After they did a random number plate check and discovered my licence had expired I was fined $359. Great way to start the day! I had absolutely no idea my licence had expired and was 100 per cent certain I had not received a reminder letter from VicRoads (actually, being paranoid every time I get a letter from them, I was more than 100 per cent sure). I went straight down to VicRoads to renew my licence and asked if they had my correct details because I had not received a reminder about my licence. I was right – they had not issued a reminder because my licence had been suspended. Since November 2010. I nearly fainted. Long story short: apparently it was a clerical error with some smarty-pants at VicRoads indicating that I had not submitted my last review. Despite the fact that I had in my hand a letter saying it had been received and I was good to drive for two years before the next review. As I found out, reminders are not issued if your licence is suspended. (The fine was overturned, but it took a lot of time, letter writing, and sitting on the phone for this to happen!)
Having a licence is essential for many – most – of us, and whilst a pain, I completely understand why I need to have a medical review form filled in every couple of years.
But making things difficult for us only makes us angry at the process and the inconvenience of it all. Anecdotally, I’ve heard of people who simply don’t tell the licensing authorities about their diabetes to avoid the rigmarole involved in having a conditional licence. This is far more dangerous, in my opinion and puts these people at significant risk because of insurance and legal implications.
And this brings us back to the whole driving and diabetes issue and the development of the new guidelines. How is it possible for licensing authorities to have any idea of the actual process and how it impacts on people living with the condition if we are not consulted? Had Diabetes Australia been given a seat at the table when the new guidelines were being developed, this would have been considered. Had consumer reps been invited to take part, this would have been raised as a concern. It’s not good enough. Because this isn’t a simply list of guidelines on a page of a website. This is about our lives.