Help to drive with common medical conditions and disabilities - Driving Mobility

Help to drive with common medical conditions and disabilities

Driving Mobility assessment centres help individuals with a vast range of medical conditions.

Each centre provides healthcare professionals and Approved Driving Instructors who will offer recommendations to remain safe on the road when living with restricted mobility or a disability.

There are several conditions which are common to service users which are listed below with possible solutions for assisted driving. Nevertheless, a one-to-one assessment of individual needs must be completed at a Driving Mobility centre for the most appropriate recommendations to be provided.

It is critical not to purchase an adapted vehicle without a prior assessment to ensure safety and independence is maximised – now and in the future. Developing conditions may mean specialist driving lessons and expert guidance on an ongoing basis should be undertaken.

The suggestions below are only a selection of ‘typical’ solutions to certain conditions – providing an illustration of the varied adaptations that are available. These are not definitive answers for you however they provide a starting point for discussion and consideration.

This information is only to provide possible options and not definitive solutions for individual needs. To arrange a personalised driving assessment, contact your local Driving Mobility centre here.

Arthritis (and musculoskeletal conditions)

Arthritis is a common condition that causes pain and inflammation in a joint. In the UK, more than 10 million people have arthritis or other, similar conditions that affect the joints. The most commonly affected joints are those in the hands, spine, knees and hips. The symptoms can include:

  • joint pain, tenderness and stiffness
  • inflammation in and around the joints
  • restricted movement of the joints
  • warm red skin over the affected joint
  • weakness and muscle wasting

Possible solutions for easier access and use of a car

  • A Handybar for lifting yourself out of the vehicle and into the seat
  • A tip-up transfer plate to help achieve a standing position
  • Suitably placed grab rails – fitted by an adaptation specialist
  • Adapt your transfer method e.g. placing your bottom in first then lifting and swivelling legs – a leg lifter may help with this
  • Choosing a higher seated vehicle
  • Electronically controlled seats with height, distance from pedals and angle of seat adjustment
  • Vehicles with a low door sill to reduce height for lifting legs
  • A powered swivel seat is a highly technical option for those who have pronounced physical difficulties with transfers

 Possible options for easier driving

  • Vehicles with push button start, electronic parking brakes, automatic transmission or easy release parking brake / gears
  • Additional mirrors, camera systems, sensors and blind spot detection systems to aid restricted neck movement
  • Cars with a self-parking feature
  • Lighter steering systems such as a ‘city’ setting for those with affected upper limbs
  • Brake and accelerator hand controls for those with affected lower limbs
  • Cruise control to relieve pressure and fatigue during longer journeys

Back problems

It is estimated up to 8 in every 10 people in the UK are affected by back pain at some point in their lives. Pain in the lower back (lumbago) is particularly common, although it can be felt anywhere along the spine, from the neck down to the hips. In addition to injury such as strains, common causes of back pain can include: a slipped (prolapsed) disc, sciatica, ankylosing spondylitis and spondylolisthesis. These can affect mobility and flexibility particularly when entering or exiting a car. Spine compression can also lead to weakness, pain or loss of sensation in the legs and feet. This can make using the pedals accurately and consistently difficult and painful.

Possible solutions for easier access and use of a car

  • A Handybar for lifting yourself out of the vehicle and into the seat
  • A tip-up transfer plate to help achieve a standing position
  • Suitably placed grab rails – fitted by an adaptation specialist
  • Adapt your transfer method e.g. placing your bottom in first then lifting and swivelling legs – a leg lifter may help with this
  • Choosing a higher seated vehicle
  • Commercial seat-belt pullers and attachments for easier reaching and securement
  • An electrically adjustable seat instead of a manual design – particularly if you drive independently
  • A heated seat

 Possible options for easier driving

  • Back issues can cause difficulty with head movement and hence vision whilst at junctions, checking blind spots and reversing. Additional mirrors, camera systems, sensors and blind spot detection systems may help – within a new car or retrofitted
  • Self-parking feature
  • Alternative hand controls for braking and acceleration for improved accuracy and response if spine compression is affecting legs and feet.
  • Ensure your car seat is giving the correct level of lumbar support.
  • Additional lumbar support cushions
  • Plan frequent stops on longer journeys. Adopting a static position for long periods can make back pain and stiffness worse. It is important to change position and preferably stand and walk to “stretch” your back regularly.

Old age (and restricted mobility)

Old age can result in a variety conditions which affect driving ability. Currently there is an estimated 12 million people in the UK over 65 with a further 8.6 million predicted by 2070. Our ageing population means more and more people will seek the support of Driving Mobility to ensure independence in later years. With old age it is essential to seek the advice of a Driving Mobility centre if your ability to safely control vehicle may becoming compromised. Their friendly and professional teams always strive to help maintain independent driving through informed, qualified advice. Reduced ability with movement, vision, cognitive abilities, hearing are all common with old age however there are numerous vehicle adaptations that can help.

Possible solutions for easier access and use of a car

  • A Handybar for lifting yourself out of the vehicle and into the seat
  • A tip-up transfer plate to help achieve a standing position
  • Suitably placed grab rails – fitted by an adaptation specialist
  • Adapt your transfer method e.g. placing your bottom in first then lifting and swivelling legs – a leg lifter may help with this
  • Choosing a higher seated vehicle
  • Commercial seat-belt pullers and attachments for easier reaching and securement
  • An electrically adjustable seat instead of a manual design – particularly if you drive independently
  • A heated seat

 Possible options for easier driving

  • Old age can cause difficulty with head movement and hence vision whilst at junctions, checking blind spots and reversing. Additional mirrors, camera systems, sensors and blind spot detection systems may help – within a new car or retrofitted
  • Self-parking feature and/or ‘city’ steering which requires less effort
  • Adjustments to your driving style can make you safer, eg. increase the gap around you (particularly to the front) to give yourself more time to respond to hazards
  • Plan your journeys to avoid busy times of day and complex junctions
  • Consider only driving in daylight

Parkinson’s

Parkinson’s disease is a condition in which parts of the brain become progressively damaged over many years. It is estimated that around 1 in 500 people are affected by Parkinson’s which commonly causes:

  • involuntary shaking of particular parts of the body (tremor)
  • slow movement or ‘freezing’
  • stiff and inflexible muscles with slower response
  • memory problems
  • balance problems (this may increase the chances of a fall)

If you have been diagnosed with Parkinson’s, then the DVLA and your insurance company must be informed. A further assessment by a healthcare professional may be required. Drivers may find it harder to steer or move their feet when using pedals which will need to be reviewed at a Driving Mobility centre. There is also the capability of accessing the vehicle and transportation of mobility equipment – both for drivers and passengers.

Multiple Sclerosis (MS)

MS is a life-long condition that can affect the brain and spinal cord. MS is one of the most common causes of disability in younger adults and women are more likely to experience the condition than men. It can cause a wide range of potential symptoms, including:

  • Vision problems
  • Loss of dexterity, coordination and sensation
  • Muscle stiffness or weakness, spasms and pain
  • Fatigue, changed thinking such as forgetfulness and ‘brain fog’

If you have been diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis, then the DVLA and your insurance company must be informed. A further assessment by a healthcare professional may be required. Drivers may find it harder to steer or move their feet when using pedals which will need to be reviewed at a Driving Mobility centre. There is also the capability of accessing the vehicle and transportation of mobility equipment – both for drivers and passengers.

Possible solutions for easier access and use of a car

  • A Handybar for lifting yourself out of the vehicle and into the seat
  • A tip-up transfer plate or turning disc to help achieve a standing position
  • Suitably placed grab rails – fitted by an adaptation specialist
  • Extended seat runners
  • Adapt your transfer method e.g. placing your bottom in first then lifting and swivelling legs – a leg lifter may help with this
  • Choosing a higher seated vehicle
  • Electronically controlled seats with height, distance from pedals and angle of seat adjustment
  • Vehicles with a low door sill to reduce height for lifting legs
  • A powered swivel seat is a highly technical option for those who have pronounced physical difficulties with transfers

 Possible options for easier driving

  • Options as described for Arthritis (see the relevant section)
  • One handed steering with feet operated pedals
  • One handed steering with one handed push pull brake/accelerator lever

Possible additions for added support

  • Wheelchair and powerchair/mobility scooter hoists
  • Selection of a specialist Wheelchair Accessible Vehicle (WAV)

Dementia

Dementia is a syndrome (a group of related symptoms) associated with an ongoing decline of brain functioning. This may include problems with:

  • memory loss
  • thinking speed
  • Unpredictable or changed behaviour including anger and frustration
  • communication problems

If you have been diagnosed with Dementia, then the DVLA and your insurance company must be informed. A further assessment by a healthcare professional may be required and subsequent reviews on an ongoing basis to ensure safe driving is still achievable.

Stroke

People who survive a stroke are often left with long-term problems caused by brain injury. The most common form of stroke occurs when a blood clot blocks blood and oxygen to the brain. This can cause long term problems with:

  • Movement – weakness or paralysis on one side of the body, resulting in co-ordination, dexterity and balance issues.
  • Cognitive ability – including difficulties with communication, spatial awareness, memory, concentration and executive function
  • Psychological impact – including depression, anxiety, frustration and bewilderment

Possible solutions for easier access and use of a car

  • ‘Handybar’ – a handle which affixes to a door catch and can support a person’s weight
  • Swivel cushion if twisting is difficult
  • Leg lifter for support with raising legs over door sill
  • Easy storage, folding/collapsible walking stick
  • Extended seat runners to accommodate stiff limbs
  • Specialist seating and seat belts etc.
  • Seat belt grab and pull handles
  • Seat belt extenders, clip extenders and buckle extenders
  • Chest straps for drivers with reduced postural control and strength
  • Cushions of various shapes and sizes

 Possible options for easier driving

  • Single-handed steering aids if one arm is weak or not functional.
  • Keypad control for secondary controls such as indicators, wipers and horn.
  • Left foot accelerator pedal and/or left foot braking can be used if lacking control in right foot.
  • ‘Easy release’ adaptations for handbrake and gear selector
  • Blind spot mirrors if ability to twist is reduced

Amputation

An amputation is the surgical removal of part of the body, such as an arm or leg. An amputation may be needed if:

  • you have a severe infection in your limb
  • your limb has been affected by gangrene
  • there is serious trauma to your limb
  • your limb is deformed and has limited movement and function

In certain circumstances a person may be able to use their prosthesis for driving. However, an assessment by a Driving Mobility centre is strongly recommended if this is the intention of the driver.

Possible solutions for easier access and use of a car

  • ‘Handybar’ – a handle which affixes to door catch and can support a person’s weight
  • Swivel cushion
  • Folding or collapsible walking stick
  • Extended seat runners – can provide more space if prosthetic lower limbs are fitted
  • Specialist seating and seat belts etc.
  • Seat belt grab and pull handles
  • Seat belt extenders, clip extenders and buckle extenders
  • Chest strap can support a person with asymmetric posture or balance issues
  • Supportive cushions of various shapes and sizes
  • Wheelchair storage devices include a roof mounted solution if accessible
  • Boot hoists for wheelchairs and equipment if limited walking is possible
  • Lightweight wheelchairs with removable wheels

 Possible options for easier driving

  • Single-handed steering aids if one upper limb is amputated
  • Indicator transfer or extension sticks may be used with a standard steering aid
  • Keypad control to operate secondary controls such as indicators, wipers and horn.
  • Left foot accelerator pedal if right lower limb is amputated
  • Push / Pull hand controls if both lower limbs amputated or if a left foot accelerator is not appropriate
  • ‘Easy release’ adaptations for handbrake and gear selector.