Driving With Multiple Sclerosis (MS)

Following a diagnosis of Multiple Sclerosis (MS) it is common for individuals to worry about how the condition may potentially impact their day to day life – a key concern is their ability to drive. Driving a car for many is the key to freedom and independence, therefore one of the most common questions asked following a diagnosis of MS is ‘Will I still be able to drive?’ Most people will be able to continue driving. Although driving is a complex activity which can be affected by MS, there are therefore some important considerations to bear in mind. MS can also change over time, resulting in difficulty controlling a vehicle – it is however, important to remember that many people with MS remain happy and confident drivers.

Symptoms of MS Which May Affect Driving

MS is a complex disorder which affects the central nervous system (CNS) – there are two types of MS, Relapsing/Remitting MS and Progressive MS. Relapsing/Remitting MS is the most commonly diagnosed type of MS, it is characterised by intermittent episodes of new or worsening symptoms which can vary from mild to severe depending on the individual. The condition can affect people in very different ways and change over time in an unpredictable manner.

MS may affect the ability to drive safely if any of the following symptoms are experienced.

Extreme fatigue

This is one of the most common symptoms of MS – an overwhelming sense of tiredness can transform even the most simple physical and mental tasks into struggle. Driving when suffering from extreme fatigue is dangerous and can cause fatal accidents.

Sensory Disturbances

Abnormal sensations such as numbness and tingling can appear in the arms and hands, legs and feet, which may affect the driver’s control over the car.

Cognitive issues

MS can sometimes cause difficulties with cognitive tasks such as problem solving, planning and multi-tasking, and short term memory, all of which can cause serious issues when controlling a car.

Muscle stiffness

Muscles may contract tightly or painfully as a result of MS, causing spasms which sometimes leads to issues with balance and coordination.

Visual disturbances

Although visual disturbances due to MS typically only ever affect one eye at any one time – symptoms may include temporary loss of vision, double vision and involuntary eye movements.

Severe mood alterations

Some people diagnosed with MS suffer from severe depression or anxiety, and in some rarer cases individuals may experience severe mood swings and be unable to control outbursts of anger or sadness.

Driving With MS

Do I Have to Inform The DVLA?

The DVLA must be informed of any type of medical condition which may affect your driving – non-disclosure can result in a fine of up to £1000 or prosecution in the event of an accident proven to be a result of the condition.  Once the DVLA has been informed of a diagnosis of MS, they will assess the individual’s ability to drive using information provided, they may also require a driving assessment and a medical examination.

Upon evaluation the DVLA may issue one of the following:

  • A full licence
  • A medical review licence, valid for 1, 2 or 3 years
  • Given a licence which states specific adaptations to use
  • In some extreme cases, the individual may not be permitted to drive at all

Do I Need to Notify My Insurance Company?

Yes – your insurance company must be informed in the case of a diagnosis of MS – the insurance company must also be informed of any adaptations made to the vehicle.

Car Adaptations

There are a wide range of vehicle adaptations available to provide a solution to suit numerous types of disabilities.  Driving adaptations can enable people to continue driving, when ordinarily it would not have been possible. An assessment at a mobility centre can help to identify and address any problems which are a result of MS, and subsequently recommend any appropriate adaptations.

Will I Need A New Car?

Some people will be able to continue driving their unadapted car for several years – if your car does require adaptation, it is a good idea to take it to a specialist adaptation company to check if it is possible.

Which Adaptations Will I Need?

The type of adaptations needed will very much depend on the symptoms experienced by the individual, it may be useful to consider the following:

Do you need help getting in and out of the car?

MS can cause weakness and pain in the legs, making it difficult to get in and out of the vehicle. It may be worth looking for a car with larger and wider doors. Some people may need specialist equipment to help getting in and out, such as a swivel seat or the Milford Person Hoist.

Do you have weakness or loss of sensation in the legs or arms?

The following adaptations may be helpful for experiencing weakness, loss of sensation, strength or control in the arms and legs.

For more information on specialist vehicle adaptions, get in touch with All Shropshire Mobility – we are a vehicle adaptation company based in Shropshire, offering a bespoke service and demonstration equipment, enabling our customers to try out specific adaptations before purchase.