Welcome to the World of Traffic Psychology - Slovakia
Have you ever wondered where traffic psychology assessment even exists, and how it is done elsewhere? In our blog series Welcome to the World of Traffic Psychology, we want to look at other countries to understand their way of conducting traffic psychological assessments. Today, a guest author tells us about her work in Slovakia.
Who has to undergo a traffic psychological assessment?
According to the law applicants for a driving license of groups C1, C1E, C, CE, D1, D1E, D and DE must undergo a traffic psychological assessment. Drivers who are holding these licenses are required to undergo a periodic traffic psychological assessment every five years until they reach the age of 65, and every two years after that. These rules apply to private drivers as well as for drivers of motor vehicles with the right of way, motor vehicles used for transport of dangerous goods, and motor vehicles used for delivery, taxi or postal services.
In case of a driver's license revocation due to traffic offences, the traffic office decides on the return of the driver's license and the examinations to be performed, such as a psychological, medical, or psychiatric assessment. The latter is mainly used in cases of drunk driving.
Before the assessment
Before the traffic psychological assessment, the driver must present their identity card, driver's license or any other document related to the reason for the traffic-psychological examination, e. g. an order on examination of mental capacity or a recommendation from a general practitioner or a specialist. To ensure fair and meaningful results, the driver must state to be in good mental and physical condition, to not have consumed alcohol, narcotics or other addictive substances immediately prior to the examination, and to have had no other traffic psychological assessment within the last 3 months that found them unfit to drive. Only if these conditions are met and confirmed via signature by the driver, the assessment can proceed.
Dimensions measured and methods used
Generally, the traffic psychological assessment focuses on three areas: performance characteristics, personality dispositions, and medical history.
Performance characteristics are defined as general intellectual abilities, stress tolerance, psychomotor pace, sensorimotor reactivity and coordination, and memory. For drivers of vehicles with the right of way or vehicles for transporting dangerous goods, visual perception and fast detection of visual stimuli must also be assessed. Each of these dimensions is assessed via a specialized psychological test which was standardized for the population of drivers within the last 15 years.
Personality dispositions are partly assessed with psychological questionnaires but also approached via a psychological interview. No hard criteria for passing or failing this part are defined by the law. However, some dispositions are usually considered to be contraindications, e. g., inappropriate self-evaluation, emotional lability, predominantly maladaptive coping strategies in life situations, a lack of rational behavioral regulation or low tolerance of negative affects.
In terms of execution of these psychological tests, the law does not favor either paper and pencil or digital test presentation, leaving the choice with the examining psychologist. An exception is made for the dimension stress tolerance, which must be assessed digitally. Hence, many Slovakian psychologists opt for comprehensive digital testing with the Vienna Test System, which provides both tests for performance characteristics and personality dispositions.
At the end of the traffic psychological assessment, the assessing psychologist interprets all results from both performance and personality assessment, as well as the evaluation of the driver’s medical history to conclude whether the driver is fit to drive a motor vehicle or not.
Possible results of the assessment
The result of the traffic psychological assessment is recorded in the driver’s or applicant’s medical documentation as well as the documentation for mental fitness.
If the psychological assessment reveals reasons that speak against a sufficient fitness to drive, the driver is classified as unsuitable. For example, this would be the case if the driver scores lower than the required percentile rank in the performance tests or shows severe abnormalities in the personality diagnosis or anamnesis. Current legislation allows the psychologist to limit the period of validity of the examination. The negative result must be reported to the responsible police force within 5 working days.
If the person shows deficits in some ability tests, but reaches the required percentile rank in the majority of the tests, the driver license can be returned under certain restrictions, as long as the shown deficits are classified as compensable.
If the psychological assessment does not reveal any reasons that speak against a sufficient fitness to drive a motor vehicle, the person is classified as fit to drive.
The criteria for assessing the mental capacity of drivers are comprehensively specified in Appendix no. 10 to the Decree of the Ministry of the Interior of the Slovak Republic no. 9/2009 Coll., which sets the minimum level of mental abilities for driving a motor vehicle.
Where are the assessments conducted?
The law does not define the organizational structure of the investigation centers. Psychological examinations can be carried out by any psychological workplaces that employ traffic psychologists.
Requirements for centers and psychologists
Only psychologists with a certificate in traffic psychology are authorized to assess fitness to drive in drivers. To obtain the certificate, it is necessary to complete a certification course of traffic psychology, which is completed by writing a final thesis and passing an exam. The certification is currently offered at the Slovak Medical University in Bratislava and takes three-semesters. The list of authorized psychologists is regularly updated on the Chamber of Psychologists’ website, and these lists are sent twice a year to the Ministry of the Interior of the Slovak Republic, the Presidium of the Slovak Police Force, the Ministry of Health of the Slovak Republic, and the Health Care Supervision Office.
About the Author
Dr. Zdenka Kubišová is the current vice president of the Association of Traffic Psychologists of the Slovak Republic and holds a license to perform the activities of a professional representative for the field of clinical psychology, counseling psychology, traffic psychology and psychotherapy. She is an expert in the field of adult clinical psychology and traffic psychology, as well as a supervisor for practical training in the specialized study of clinical psychology and in the certification study of traffic psychology. She has 38 years of experience as a healthcare worker.