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Before starting to drive again after stroke, you will need to check that you are meeting all the DVLA/DVA requirements and make sure that you can drive safely. See ‘Driving after Stroke’ for more information.
You may be relieved and happy if you are able to drive again. But people often say they lose some of their confidence or feel anxious about driving after the stroke. It can put some people off driving again.
To help you regain your confidence and boost your skills, it can be helpful to seek some support for going back to driving. Contact your local driving assessment centre where you should be able to get individual advice. Visit drivingmobility.org.uk to find your nearest centre.
If you have an occupational therapist, talk to them about it. They can tailor your therapy to help prepare you to return to driving.
As you become familiar with driving again your confidence should improve. You might need to build up gradually starting with short journeys. You might find out that you need more breaks, or drive at the times when you have most energy.
Refresher driving lessons
To boost your confidence and refresh your skills, you may find it helpful to have a few lessons with a qualified driving instructor. Disability driving instructors can offer specialised help. Check that they are registered with the Driving Standards Agency (DSA). If you drive an adapted vehicle, you can have familiarisation lessons to train you to use the new controls.
Driving assessment centres and mobility centrescan help you arrange lessons.
Driving and age
Older drivers often have the benefit of being experienced road users with a long record of safe driving. And driving may be vital for an older person, giving independence and freedom.
By law, you must renew your licence at 70, and every three years after that. You have to meet the same standards for fitness to drive as when you return to driving after a stroke, so you might find a driving assessment helpful.
Support and guidance is also available from the Hubs Mobility Advice Service, which focuses on people who are considering retiring from driving.
Accessible vehicle features and adaptations
If you have a physical disability, it is often possible to use a vehicle adaptation. And modern cars often have features that can make driving easier with a limb weakness, such as power steering and electronic controls. Automatic cars may be easier to drive than a manual gear shift.
A driving assessment can suggest which adaptations you might need to enable you to return to driving. They also advise on approved installers of adaptations. You can search on Find a Dealer for an installer to carry out the adaptations.
Some adaptations include:
- Hand controls: speed and brake controls can be hand-operated, either using a lever or an electronic device.
- Lightened power steering: adjusted for use with less arm strength.
- One-handed steering: attaching a steering wheel ball allows you to steer one-handed and operate other driving controls with the other.
- Remote control: an electronic hand-operated device to operate indicators, lights and windscreen wipers.
- Pedal adaptations: including a left-food accelerator and pedal extensions.
Many adaptations can be easily removed for another driver.
Other adaptations can be made to let you get in and out more easily, and store equipment like wheelchairs. If you start using an adapted vehicle, you may will need some training to learn how to operate the controls.
Learning to drive with a disability
If you want to learn to drive for the first time, it’s a good idea to get advice from a driving assessment centre. They can help you find out if you are safe to drive, and can make suggestions for vehicle adaptations that can help you.
They can help you find a trained disability driving instructor. They can give lessons in adapted cars, but if you need specific adaptations you might have to buy your own car. You will have to carry out the standard driving test, but you may be able to get support or extra time with the theory test.
Young people receiving the higher rate mobility component of Disability Living Allowance (DLA) can get a licence from the age of 16 instead of 17.
Financial support for driving lessons
Motability offers grants for driving lessons for people with disabilities. They also offer grants for familiarisation lessons to teach you how to drive an adapted vehicle.
To apply, you should:
- Be eligible to use Motability, which means receiving the higher rate mobility component of Personal Independence Payments (PIP) or Disability Living Allowance (DLA).
- Be on a means-tested benefit such as Universal Credit.
You can learn to drive in a Motability car or another vehicle.
To ensure your insurance is valid, you must tell your insurance company about yourstroke or TIA. Insurance companies have their own processes, so talk to yours to find out more. Check your policy carefully. They might want confirmation that you are safe to drive. Having a medical condition can make insurance more expensive. Try shopping around, or look for a specialist insurance provider when you need to renew.