Most people with physical disabilities can get a driver licence, and most people who had a licence before they acquired a disability can continue to drive.
Advances in vehicle technology, such as power steering and automatic cars, have helped make driving possible for people with physical disabilities. In addition, almost any standard production vehicle can be modified.
Modifications that can be made to private vehicles include:
Some vehicle modifications require inspection and certification to ensure they are safe. These include:
If a vehicle has to be modified, the alterations must be carried out by a person with the appropriate skills and experience.
A health professional experienced in driver training and an approved low volume vehicle certifier will ensure that the vehicle is safe and the alterations meet the needs of the user.
The following organisations can give you more information about certifiers who can inspect your vehicle and can advise you about vehicle modification for drivers with physical disabilities:
If your disability makes it difficult for you to access this information, get a friend who is familiar with the Internet to help you.
If you have a physical disability, you should get professional assistance from a driving assessment service. The service can:
For information on where to find your nearest assessment centre, contact:
If you have a medical condition such as diabetes, epilepsy, dementia or poor vision, or you’ve had a head injury, heart attack or stroke, check with your medical advisor.
More information about:
Disabilities such as broken arms or legs, migraines and so on may not stop you from driving, but you need to decide how safe you and other road users will be.
Plaster casts may be uncomfortable and can make it difficult to control a vehicle. You must get guidance from your doctor concerning how the cast will affect your ability to operate all the vehicle’s controls.
Multiple sclerosis, arthritis, Parkinson’s disease, loss of hearing or vision, and aging may subject your body to changes that affect your ability to drive safely.
It’s important that you are aware of the effect these conditions may have on your ability to control a vehicle safely. Don’t assume that your driving won’t be affected.
If you have a progressive disability, you may need to adjust your driving as changes occur.
If you take medication, or if your medication changes, you must make sure your driving isn’t affected. Get professional medical advice.
If you’ve had an amputation, you’ll need to consult your health practitioner. They may:
There’s usually no difficulty adapting an artificial limb to a vehicle, or a vehicle to a limb.
For more information, contact a driving assessment service.
If you’re deaf, there’s no reason why you can’t drive a private motorcar.
You may need to consider, however, the need for additional rear vision mirrors. Having side mirrors on both sides of your vehicle can help you detect vehicles that use sound and lights to warn drivers of their presence (eg emergency vehicles).
Every driver must pass a standard eyesight test before they can get a driver licence. If you’ve got monocular vision (vision through one eye), you may be able to drive. You need to have a visual field of 140 degrees and 6/12 vision in your good eye It’s likely that you’ll have a condition on your licence requiring external rear view mirrors on both sides of your vehicle.
If you have a disability and you want to get your driver licence, you’ll still sit the standard theory and practical driving tests. If you can only drive in a specially equipped vehicle, the test will be carried out in that vehicle.
Consideration of individual cases is possible and you may be permitted to drive subject to special conditions. Unfortunately, some people – for their own safety and that of others – aren’t permitted to drive.
Applicants for licence classes 2 to 5 and P, V, I and O endorsements require special medical, eyesight and hearing examinations.
If you have a disability, you may qualify for parking concessions. Contact your local CCS branch (formerly New Zealand Crippled Children Society) for information.
An increasing number of people with disabilities are turning to mobility scooters and power chairs (electric wheelchairs) as a form of transportation. This is usually because they are unable to drive a motor vehicle.
Most mobility scooters and power chairs are battery powered and have three or four wheels.
Mobility scooters and power chairs are legally defined as ‘wheeled mobility devices’.
You don’t need a driver licence to operate a wheeled mobility device, and they are not required to have a warrant of fitness or registration. There are, however, some important legal safety requirements you need to know about:
It’s important to be aware that careless use of a mobility scooter or power chair carries legal implications.
For example, operating a wheeled mobility device carelessly, inconsiderately or at a hazardous speed can result in a fine of up to $1000.
If you cause a crash where someone is injured or killed, you could be convicted of careless or inconsiderate use of a vehicle, and face a fine of up to $4500, or up to three months imprisonment.
Your mobility scooter or power chair should be serviced by a qualified service technician regularly. Some manufacturers recommend that mobility scooters and power chairs are given a safety check similar to a warrant of fitness every six months. This includes getting the brakes, electronics and controls serviced, and the tyre pressure and battery checked.
There are a number of safety accessories available, such as indicators, lights, horns, reversing beepers, warning flags and rear view mirrors.