Physical and Mental Impairments & Conditions That Affect DrivingUpdated Dec. 11, 2020
Your physical and mental condition has a direct effect on your ability to manage and execute multiple tasks while driving. Persons with physical or mental disabilities may lack the necessary skills to operate a vehicle safely.
Driving a car requires:
- Adequate muscle strength to operate the pedals and steer
- Adequate motor skills to operate controls effectively
- The ability to focus on various physical and mental tasks simultaneously
- Adequate vision to spot dangers on the roadway and read road signs
- The ability to remain alert
Any medical condition or injury which leads to decreased muscle strength, lack of muscle control, poor vision or lapses in consciousness may render a person unable to obtain a driver’s license.
Applying for a driver’s license
It is standard procedure in all states that any person applying for a driver’s license must declare any and all ongoing mental or physical conditions that may impede their ability to drive safely. If you have an ongoing condition that is associated with symptoms that are known to impede driving ability, you may need a signed statement from your general physician certifying that you are capable of operating a vehicle safely.
If you have a disability or medical condition that may affect your ability to drive, you should discuss the matter with your doctor prior to putting in your license application. It is a crime to lie about any pre-existing medical conditions or disabilities on your application for a driver’s license. Your license may be revoked if you obtain it under false pretenses.
Conditions that limit driving
Persons with any of the below-listed chronic health conditions may not be eligible to drive. Every case is different; one person with a medical condition or disability may be deemed unfit to drive while another person with the same condition is given the all-clear. If you have any of the conditions listed here, consult your doctor before applying for a license.
- Cerebral palsy
- Acute Diabetes
- Moderate to severe heart problems
- Parkinson’s disease
- Moderate to severe respiratory problems
- Vascular problems that lead to inadequate blood flow
- Muscular dystrophy
- Blindness or partial vision
- Any other condition which causes limited muscle control, weakness, seizures or limited mental function.
Driving with restrictions
Suffering with a physical disability or chronic health condition does not necessarily mean that you must give up on the dream of driving. As driving is typically more of a mental challenge than a physical challenge, many people with physical conditions and disabilities are still capable of operating a vehicle safely and becoming licensed drivers. Though in some cases, you may be required to adhere to certain restrictions. For instance:
- Not driving at night.
- Keeping up medication.
- Regular check-ups with your doctor.
- Driving in a vehicle with specially-designed assistive equipment.
If the licensing officer dealing with your application feels that your medical condition may hinder your ability to drive, they may ask for a referral from your doctor and/or issue you a license with restrictions. Here are some common, condition-specific restrictions imposed on drivers:
People with epilepsy can usually obtain a Class C license if they have been seizure-free for at least one year and are regularly taking medication.
People with neck or back problems that prevent them from turning to see to the side and rear of a vehicle may be issued a driver’s license for a car fitted with larger mirrors.
Amputees and people born with physical deformities may be able to drive with the use of prosthetic devices and special in-car controls.
Restricted driver’s licenses
It is incredibly important that any person issued with a restricted driver’s license strictly adheres to the conditions outlined on their license documents every time they get behind the wheel. Failure to stick to the rules could lead to your driver's license being revoked or criminal charges if you injure another person while driving. For the same reason, you must notify your doctor and the licensing authority if your medical condition improves or worsens.
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