While there is still no law against driving with a plaster cast neither in Australia nor in New Zealand, the driver does risk being charged with dangerous driving if they have an accident in either country.
The study of 200 patients in plaster casts by surgeons at Gold Coast Hospital, Queensland, has revealed that, 50 per cent had driven a car and 22 per cent did so daily with half of these driving manual vehicles.
The drivers in casts were twice as likely to be men as women. Earlier studies have shown that any driver in an arm cast would fail a driving test.
The researchers said, "In executing turns and reverse parking in a plaster, it is impossible to grip the wheel adequately." They added that although a young, fit person might be able to maneuver a vehicle with considerable effort, a weak or elderly person with a fracture would probably find it impossible.
Statistics on the number of road crashes involving drivers in plaster casts are not collected by Land Transport New Zealand.
However spokesman Andy Knackstedt said that doctors in New Zealand were obliged to advise patients with medical conditions, which might affect their ability to drive safely. He added that neglect to do so would leave them open to legal action.
He said, "And if they believe the patient is going to ignore that advice they've got an obligation to tell us."
Accident and Medical Practitioners Association secretary Alistair Sullivan said that doctors were given written guidelines on what patients with a plaster cast should be instructed about driving.
"Basically the rules state that you can't drive with any kind of arm cast on because you'll lose control of the wheel."