Understanding Disabilities and Driving
Disabilities and driving
Most people with a physical disability can get a driver license, and most people who had a license before they acquired a disability can continue to drive.
Advances in vehicle technology, such as power steering and automatic cars, have helped make driving possible for people with physical disabilities. In addition, almost any standard production vehicle can be modified.
If you have a physical disability, you should get professional assistance from a driving assessment service. The service can:
* test your driving ability on the road
* give advice on the controls and adaptations you need for access, seating, and to drive safely and in comfort
* evaluate your muscle strength and range of movement.
Driving with specific types of disability
Driving with a medical condition
If you have a medical condition such as diabetes, epilepsy, dementia or poor vision, or you've had a head injury, heart attack or stroke, check with your doctor.
Driving with a temporary disability
Disabilities such as broken arms or legs, migraines and so on may not stop you from driving, but you need to decide how safe you and other road users will be.
Plaster casts may be uncomfortable and can make it difficult to control a vehicle. You must get guidance from your doctor concerning how the cast will affect your ability to operate all the vehicle's controls.
Driving with a progressive disability
Multiple sclerosis, arthritis, Parkinson's disease, loss of hearing or vision, and aging may subject your body to changes that affect your ability to drive safely.
It's important that you are aware of the effect these conditions may have on your ability to control a vehicle safely. Don't assume that your driving won't be affected.
If you have a progressive disability, you may need to adjust your driving as changes occur.
If you take medication, or if your medication changes, you must make sure your driving isn't affected. Get professional medical advice.
Driving if you've had an amputation
If you've had an amputation, you'll need to consult your doctor. They may:
* issue a doctor's certificate stating that you should only drive an automatic vehicle and/or that the vehicle should be fitted with special mechanical devices
* refer you to a driving assessment service.
There's usually no difficulty adapting an artificial limb to a vehicle, or a vehicle to a limb.
Driving if you suffer from deafness
If you're deaf, there's no reason why you can't drive an automobile. You may need to consider, however, the need for additional rear vision mirrors. Having side mirrors on both sides of your vehicle can help you detect vehicles that use sound and lights to warn drivers of their presence (eg, emergency vehicles).
Driving if you have poor vision
Every driver must pass a standard eyesight test before they can get a driver license. If you've got monocular vision (vision through one eye) and you don't earn a living from your driving, you may be able to drive.
You need to have a visual field of 140 degrees and 6/12 vision in your good eye. It's likely that you'll have a condition on your licences requiring external rear view mirrors on both sides of your vehicle.
Getting a driver license
If you have a disability and you want to get your driver license, you'll need to pass the standard test and practical driving tests. If you can only drive in a specially equipped vehicle, the test will be carried out in that vehicle.
Consideration of individual cases is possible and you may be permitted to drive subject to special conditions. Unfortunately, some people - for their own safety and that of others - aren't permitted to drive.
Handicapped Parking Permits
If you have a disability, you may qualify for a Handicapped Parking Permit.
An increasing number of people with disabilities are turning to mobility scooters and power chairs (electric wheelchairs) as a form of transportation. This is usually because they are unable to drive a motor vehicle.
About the author:
Aileen Norgell, MD is a Board Certified primary care physician in Orlando, Florida