Ongoing management of symptoms caused by multiple sclerosis (MS) is essential for maintaining mobility, productivity and involvement. Many MS symptoms can interfere with mobility, including fatigue, vertigo, pain, numbness, sensory changes in the feet or hands, and problems with cognition, coordination or vision, among others. Even depression, which is very common in MS, can interfere with a person’s ability to stay mobile and active.
When symptoms of MS interferes with driving safely, an occupational therapist or other driving specialist can assess your needs and recommend adaptations, tools and automobile modifications to help keep you driving.
How can I determine if I can continue to drive safely with MS?
The following information is provided in accordance with the National Multiple Sclerosis Society.
Talk to your doctor or occupational therapist.
Since MS can impact many functions necessary for safe driving, your doctor or occupational therapist can inform you about your condition and whether or not you can drive. The severity of MS symptoms can vary considerably over time. During exacerbations driving may be difficult or unsafe, but may return to normal as the exacerbation ends and symptoms improve.
Your ability to drive safely may be affected if you experience any of the following:
- Difficulty getting into or out of a car
- Muscle weakness or stiffness/spasms/cramps or pain, particularly in the arms or right foot
- Loss of sensation in the feet or hands
- Impaired coordination
- Slowed reaction time
- Seizures or loss of consciousness
- Blurred vision, blind spots, double vision, loss of color vision
- Cognitive problems such as short-term memory loss; disorientation while driving such as forgetting your destination, getting confused about where you are or missing exits; poor concentration; inability to multitask; and confusion about how to turn the car on or off
- Mood changes: depression and/or problems controlling anger
Professionals such as driver rehabilitation specialists can evaluate your driving ability. You’ll get a behind-the-wheel evaluation and be tested for vision perception, functional ability, reaction time, judgment and cognitive abilities (thinking and problem solving). Look for Certified Driver Rehabilitation Specialists in your local area by using the web tool offered by the Association for Driver Rehabilitation Specialists (ADED).
Enroll in a driver’s training program.
For a fee, you may receive a driving assessment, classroom instruction and suggestions for modifying your vehicle (if necessary). These programs are often available through rehabilitation centers, as mentioned above.
Additionally, you may choose to contact your State Department of Motor Vehicles. Ask for the Office of Driver Safety to find out what vehicle or training requirements apply to people who have MS.
Know your driving equipment options.
As more capable technologies and new advances in mobility equipment are made each day, accessible vehicles have become more powerful than ever before. These modified vehicle solutions – such as hand controls, pedal extensions, seat bases, lifts and ramps – have changed the lives of countless people with disabilities.
NMEDA provides adaptive transportation solutions for you, your family or caregivers.
Through the use of mobility equipment, NMEDA Dealer Members provide independence and the ability to get behind the wheel. With equipment installed by a dealer who participates in NMEDA’s Quality Assurance Program (QAP™), an accessible or modified van, truck or car can provide the assurance you need to feel confident and secure on the road once more.
NMEDA’s QAP is changing the future of the mobility industry. Offering the assurance of safe and reliable transportation through structured and documented quality control, QAP is the branded name of the only program of its kind in the mobility industry. NMEDA requires Dealer Member compliance with our Guidelines and QAP Rules. Each Dealer Member is audited annually for continued accreditation. In addition, QAP delivers advanced training programs to broaden the knowledge of the public, heath care providers and NMEDA’s dealer, manufacturer and associate base.
While consumers often have a choice of where to buy or have services provided, take the guesswork out of the equation and insist on a QAP-approved NMEDA Dealer Member.