A driving licence withdrawal can have major consequences in everyday life

A withdrawn driving licence can have negative consequences for a person’s ability to shape their own life. A study from VTI investigates how individuals with visual field loss have been affected by no longer being permitted to drive.

For a person with a driving licence and access to a car, a withdrawn driving licence can turn a lot of aspects of life upside down. The withdrawal may affect not only their mode of transport, but may also have consequences for their career, finances, everyday chores, social life or even their self-image.

Jonna Nyberg is a research assistant at VTI and a doctoral student at Örebro University. Her thesis is about transport-related welfare, focusing on individuals with visual field loss. She has conducted an interview study to investigate how a person’s everyday life can be affected by the withdrawal of their driving licence.

“It will have consequences for most people in one way or another.”

Many people have organised their lives in such a way that they need to drive a car every day, or their job requires them to have a driving licence. To some extent, this is a consequence of the spacial planning of recent decades, which has been largely based on the car. A withdrawn driving licence can mean that the person has to move or even change professions. Everyday tasks like grocery shopping and getting to and from work can be made more difficult, but their social life may change too, as the person is no longer able to participate in activities or socialise with friends and relatives. This can be a change that in some cases leads to social isolation.

“The driving licence is often strongly associated with independence and freedom. Many feel that it is difficult having to ask others for a ride, partly because they don’t want to be a burden, and partly because they don’t want to be dependent on the willingness or availability of others to take them to places,” says Jonna Nyberg.

Visual field loss can have different underlying causes, but the most common are stroke, diabetes or glaucoma.

“In the case of glaucoma and diabetes, for example, the symptoms often present gradually. This means that the person affected will often become used to it and does not notice the visual field loss – they don’t perceive it as an obstacle in everyday life. For this reason, it may come as a shock to find out that their licence is being withdrawn.”

Many of the interviewees feel incorrectly assessed and that they have been treated unfairly, arguing that the methods used to measure visual field loss are unreliable in assessing driving ability.

“You consider yourself a good and experienced driver who has not been involved in any traffic accidents. It’s common to compare yourself to other groups that you don’t consider to be safe drivers.”

The results of the interview study indicate that there is a lack of trust in government agencies due to the revocation. The interviewees may, for example, express opinions regarding the regulations, the measuring methods or the way they have been treated by doctors and agency officials. Jonna Nyberg intends to investigate this distrust and its causes in future substudies. For the time being, there is a survey study underway to supplement the interview study.

The thesis concerning transport-related welfare with a focus on driving licences and visual field loss is expected to be completed in 2021.

This is an article from the magazine VTI aktuellt no. 2–2019 (in Swedish).

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