Can people with Tremor drive?
Driving is a very important part of everyday life, promoting independence and providing a means to get to work, meet friends and enjoy leisure activities. It is therefore not surprising that one of the most common questions asked when people are diagnosed with Tremor is how the condition will affect their ability to drive.
Although some people do find that their driving is affected by their symptoms and the medication they take, many others continue to drive safely for years after diagnosis. Your doctor is the best person to advise on your fitness to drive and any legal obligations must be complied with, but even when difficulties arise, these can often be overcome through the use of equipment, adaptations and particular techniques that make driving easier.
Tremor medication and driving
Drowsiness can be a side effect of Tremor medications.
The Driver & Vehicle Licensing Authority (DLVA) stated that they believed the risk of sudden onset of sleep was quite low and taking Tremor medication should not lead to an automatic cessation of driving. However, anyone who experiences drowsiness should stop driving until they have discussed the problem with their doctor. Changing medication can sometimes help, but not always.
Legal obligations, insurance and tax
Your legal obligations include but are not necessarily limited to:
- notifying your the DVLA of your diagnosis. They will advise you of the steps you need to take to retain your driving licence. This may involve contacting your doctor to confirm your fitness to drive, a medical exam or driving test. Some countries may issue a licence for a fixed term, usually renewable provided your ability hasn’t deteriorated sufficiently to make you unfit to drive.
- informing your insurance company. You should tell the company of any health change that may affect your driving. In most countries it is an offence under road traffic legislation to make a false statement or withhold information for the purposes of obtaining a certificate of motor insurance. Anyone who drives when considered unfit will invalidate their insurance cover.
- reporting any subsequent changes in your driving ability to the DVLA and your insurance company. All drivers have a responsibility to ensure that they are medically fit to drive at all times. If you have any doubts, stop driving and discuss the situation with your doctor.
What help is available?
Financial assistance may be available to people who are in receipt of certain welfare benefits or services to help fund the purchase of a more suitable car or adaptations to an existing vehicle. Your local social services or welfare rights organisation can advise further.
Occupational therapists can sometimes help with mobility issues and some countries have specialised driving and mobility centres where you can have an assessment, obtain information and try out equipment.
The EU Model Parking Card for People with Disabilities (the Blue Badge) has been adopted in many European countries. This entitles anyone who qualifies to certain parking concessions in their own country and when they travel to other parts of Europe that operate the scheme. The concessions vary between countries, but usually apply whether the holder is the driver or a passenger in a car.
The motoring organisation, The AA, has published a leaflet, European Parking Card for People with Disabilities, which explains more about using the Blue Badge in 29 European Countries.
Public transport concessions and assistance schemes
If you wish to use public transport, there may be concessions and assistance schemes available in your country to help you. Examples include local taxi schemes and rail/bus cards. Many rail companies, airports and airlines have systems in place to help passengers with disabilities, provided this is booked in advance.
How can I help myself?
To accommodate life with Tremor it will often be necessary to either change the type of car you drive or to make adaptations to your existing vehicle. Even if your symptoms do not impair your driving now it is important to consider possible future needs. So check out all available options and follow up those that are practical and will help overcome any difficulties. Examples include:
- cars that are easier to manage and have been designed to suit people with disabilities, or provide more space so that you can manoeuvre yourself in and out
- power steering
- automatic transmission
- other automatic functions, e.g. electric windows and windscreen wipers that are activated when it rains
- swivel seats or sitting on a sheet of plastic to make it easier to get in and out of your car seat
- door handles that are easier to open
- simpler hand controls or aids to make steering, braking or acceleration less difficult.