Choosing a car as an older or disabled driver
Over the years, during our research with disabled and older drivers we've collected some tips, practical advice and useful information. Choosing a car if you have a disability or are getting on in years can mean you have more things to consider.
Our information can help you as its practical and is based on experiences from other people.
Ask the following questions:
- What are the rules about driving with a disability? See below.
- Which useful features on standard cars can make a difference? Check out the RiDC car search
- Are there specialist products or techniques that will help?
- How can I find sources of funding and expert advice? See below.
- Are you eligible for the Motability Scheme?
It's always well worth getting advice from a Mobility Centre.
Specialised driving controls
You may able to continue driving OK an unadapted car, particularly if it has automatic transmission and power steering.
However, if you've difficulty driving, consider the adaptations available. There is a range of specialist adaptations that make motoring easier for drivers - find out more about specialist driving controls
Getting into and out of a car
Useful equipment that can help includes:
- find out about hoists that lift and lower you on to a car seat
- lifting seats that swing out and into the car, lowering and locking into a position to suit you
- some simple accessories for getting into your car may be all you need.
- If you need specific measurements from your next car - a certain seat height, wide opening doors or a car boot with a flat sill - find out more using our car search.
Getting your wheelchair into a car
Equipment to help you stow or carry a wheelchair includes:
- hoists that lift a manual or powered wheelchair or mobility scooter into a vehicle
- rooftop hoists that lift a manual chair up and on to the roof of a car
For amputees, check if there is enough space for your artificial limb in the footwell.
Drivers with arthritis
Depending on the type and severity of your arthritis, your driving will be affected differently. Here is soem advice and specific things to consider.
Try out a car and any adaptations on one of your worst days, not when you're feeling well.
- Make sure the seat is comfortable and provides good support - adjust it and the steering wheel to suit you. Cushioning, electrically adjustable seats and heated seats all help.
- Take plenty of breaks to avoid getting stiff. Leave enough time for this.
- Make sure any painkillers you use when driving do not cause drowsiness or otherwise affect your ability to drive.
- If you wear splints to support your joints, ask your occupational therapist (OT) if it's appropriate to wear them when driving. If they make driving difficult, the OT may adapt them.
- If you've recently had surgery, ask your doctor to advise you when it will be safe to drive again.
Drivers with Multiple Sclerosis
- Try out a car and any adaptations on one of your worst days, not when you're feeling well.
- Be prepared to compromise but don't omit your 'must have' features.
Getting a driver's licence
If you're learning to drive or returning to driving after acquiring a disability such as a limb amputation, you must tell the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA). They will assess your fitness to drive and may ask you to have a medical examination or a driving assessment. You may:
- be given a full licence
- be given a temporary licence, valid for one, two or three years
- be given a licence to drive an automatic or a car with specialist controls (this will be coded on your licence)
- in extreme cases, be refused a licence
You can appeal if you do not agree with the DVLA's decision.
For more information on getting a driving licence, pick up the leaflet 'What you need to know about driving licences (D100)' from a post office or get it online from www.gov.uk/browse/driving.
Driving with a disability
See the Government web pages on medical conditions, disabilities and driving.
You need to tell your insurance company about your disability and any adaptations that you use, as well as any limitations on your driving licence.
- If you are learning to drive or returning to driving with adaptations, you'll benefit from lessons with a specialist driving instructor - see below.
- Specialist driving instructors use cars with adapted controls or they may teach you in your own vehicle.
Download or read pdfs guides for specific drivers:
- Motoring after brain injury
- Motoring after amputation
- Motoring after stroke
- Motoring with arthritis
- Motoring with restricted growth
- Motoring with cerebral palsy
- Motoring with multiple sclerosis