When receiving a diagnosis of MS, many want to carry on life as ‘normal’, and an early question that arises is ‘Can I still drive?’. The good news is many people with MS can carry on driving.
Importantly, in most countries, it is a requirement to tell the government about your MS diagnosis.
The DVLA and your driving licence
For example, in the UK, you will have a driving licence, authorised by the DVLA (Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency) and you will need to tell them about your diagnosis.
The UK Government advice page about driving with MS is here. The page directs you to two forms – CN1 for cars and motorcycles and CN1V for bus, coach and lorry drivers.
The five and six-page forms request information about your GP and consultant and there is a questionnaire to assess your medical fitness to drive. The form is online but needs to be posted (or faxed, remember those?!).
The pages may seem unfriendly and sparse but the facts are easy to understand. The Government page also starkly reminds us there is a potential £1,000 fine if you don’t tell the DVLA about a medical condition that affects your driving and that you may be prosecuted if you’re involved in an accident as a result.
You can usually keep driving while the DVLA is considering your declaration (check out the advice here) and you should receive a decision within six weeks. The DVLA might also:
contact your doctor or consultant
arrange for you to be examined
ask you to take a driving assessment, or an eyesight for driving test
Car insurance if you have MS
You need to tell your insurance company about your diagnosis. This may well affect your annual premium. Your insurance company will need to inform you about any change in costs.
MS symptoms that could affect your driving
Everyone’s experience of MS is different and symptoms vary. The most common symptom of MS is profound fatigue, which could affect your ability to drive, along with diminished vision and limb weaknesses and tremors. Symptoms come and go, and as you understand your symptoms best, you will learn to know when you feel OK to drive or not. You may want to avoid driving at night or at busy times if this helps you too.
Modern cars today have many features which make driving easier – gone are the days of stiff steering and clunky clutches! Automatic transmission is more common and affordable, power steering the norm and multiway-adjustable seats may also help.
Many people with MS are confident, safe and happy drivers. You may decide you need adaptations to drive, as defined on your licence and in agreement with the licensing authority. You may want to take a driver assessment and seek advice about aspects of driving with MS; information is available here about charity Driving Mobility’s regional test centres.
Driving with adaptations
There are a range of adapted vehicles available - a good place to start is the charity Research Institute for Disabled Consumers (RIDC) car search. If you are in receipt of certain benefits you may be able to use your mobility allowance towards the costs of a vehicle or driving lessons via a motability scheme.
You may be eligible for exemption or a reduction. The UK Government advice is here.
Blue badge and other schemes
Everyone’s favourite subject! It may be useful for you (or a disabled passenger) to be able to park closer to your required destination. Check if you are eligible to be part of the Blue Badge scheme (UK) here.
Driving and drugs
If you are worried about taking prescription medicines and driving, here is information from the UK Government regarding the law relating to drugs and driving.
The Bike Experience is a charity that teaches and supports disabled people to ride a motorcycle.
Alternative transport options
If you decide driving is not for you, there are many transport options available to help you carry on exploring and visiting places. Check out the UK government advice here. You could get a free bus pass and discounted railcard rates, and indeed contribute to reducing the world’s carbon footprint. In addition there may be help available on planes, cabs and ferries if you talk with your travel providers. Assistance is available for getting around at airports too; we wrote about the Hidden Disability Lanyard Scheme previously.
We wish you happy travelling, whether that is for work or pleasure, via whatever means and however works best for you. As always, making decisions is personal and everyone will have individual requirements and desires which we hope are realised.