Driving With Cerebral Palsy

Cerebral Palsy (CP) is the name given to a group of life long neurological conditions which can affect muscle control, coordination, reflexes, posture and balance. CP typically develops before, during or shortly after birth – symptoms may not be immediately noticeable and often only become apparent during the first 2-3 years of the child’s life.

The following may attribute to CP:

  • Problems to the baby’s oxygen supply
  • A bleed within the baby’s brain (a stroke)
  • Infection during pregnancy
  • Genetic changes which can affect the development of the brain

Main Types of Cerebral Palsy

Spastic Cerebral Palsy – this is characterised by tightness and stiffness in the muscles.

Athetoid Cerebral Palsy – muscle tone is affected, and the individual may suffer from involuntary spasms.

Ataxic Cerebral Palsy – this type of CP may result in alterations to balance and coordination.

In some cases, an individual may develop mixed cerebral palsy.

Symptoms Associated with Cerebral Palsy

CP is a highly individualised disorder, no two people are affected in the same way, however the main symptoms associated with CP include the following:

  • Muscle spasms
  • Tremors
  • Weakness in the arms and legs
  • Other complications may include seizures and fits
  • Sensory impairment
  • Fatigue
  • Cognitive impairments – which may affect decision making

The effects of CP may vary from mild to severe where all limbs are affected by the disorder causing significant disability.

Informing The DVLA

When applying for a driver’s licence, anyone with CP is legally obliged to inform the DVLA.

The DVLA may issue you with one of the following:

  • Full licence
  • Medical review licence, valid for 1,2 or 3 years
  • Licence which specifies which adaptations are needed
  • In some cases, a licence may be refused

Those suffering from seizures or epilepsy may not be able to drive – however if you have not had an attack for 12 months or more, you may still be able to drive, the DVLA will make the decision.

Choosing the Right Vehicle & Adaptations

In order to choose the correct type of vehicle and any necessary vehicle adaptations, it is important to go to a mobility centre for a full assessment, to enable you to choose a car with the right features and to determine any adaptations which will be needed.

Hand Controls

Push/pull hand controls can be fitted to assist those unable to operate standard pedals – this is especially helpful for anyone suffering from muscle weakness and tremors. They may also be suitable for those suffering from upper body weakness as well.

Different types of hand control include Push/Pull Hand Controls, Over Ring and Push Brake, Under Ring and Push Brake and Radial Hand Controls.

Steering Aids

These are designed to assist drivers with limited mobility in their upper body, where steering may not be manageable. There are several different attachments available to take the strain out of driving and provide effective operation – steering aids include, steering knobs, infra-red controls, lightened power steering, steering glove and the tetra steering grip.

Secondary Control System

The purpose of a secondary control system is to bring all the controls of the car together, enabling drivers to steer the car, as well as easily and safely operating multiple controls.

Swivel Seats

The swivel seat was designed specifically to help with those mobility issues get in and out of the vehicle and are especially useful for those transferring from the car seat to a wheelchair.

Electronic Accelerators

There are a variety of electronic accelerators available, each designed to suit different personal requirements. Specifically designed to assist those with lower limb disabilities and some upper body weakness.

Left Foot Accelerators

The left foot accelerator allows the driver to use his/her left foot for the operation of the brake and accelerator.

Pedal Modifications

Pedal modifications are useful for those with difficulties reaching the pedals when driving due to short stature, or for those with difficulties using their right foot. Pedal modifications can include pedal extensions, pedal guards (designed to prevent the accelerator or brake being pressed in the case of involuntary movements), hinged pedals and flip up pedals.

Other in-built features such as automatic transmission, a comprehensive onboard computer with a built in sat nav may also be extremely useful.

For more information on vehicle adaptations and motoring with disabilities get in touch with All Shropshire Mobility today.