Driving After Spinal Cord Injury: The Facts

Driving After Spinal cord injury

For many, the thought of getting on the road again after sustaining a life-changing spinal cord injury is extremely daunting. However, for those left paralysed and wheelchair dependent, as a direct result of such an injury, being able to transport themselves around via car, independently, is less of a luxury and more of a coveted essential.


On The Road Again After A Spinal Cord Injury: Notify The DVLA

First, when considering driving after a spinal cord injury it is your responsibility to notify the Driving and Licensing Association, DVLA, of your spinal cord injury as it is a notifiable disability. Their reply will contain medical forms that will ask for a number of things about your injury, from the manner in which is was sustained, the situation if has left you in, i.e. tetraplegic or paraplegic and what modifications you will require to drive again.

Informing the DVLA of your spinal cord injury is imperative. If you fail to inform the DVLA of a notifiable condition you can be fined up to £1000 and you can also be liable to prosecution if you do indeed have an accident. Not to mention you could be putting yourself and other road users, passengers and pedestrians in immense danger.

Unfortunately, it is, of course, the case that not all spinal cord injury individuals will be eligible to drive again, purely because of the nature of a spinal cord injury and the lack of a distinctive ‘cure’. If you do fall into this category, you must surrender your licence to the DVLA if your doctor or occupational therapist does indeed tell you to stop driving, or if you don’t currently meet the required standards for driving. Please note that surrendering your licence voluntarily may mean you can start driving again sooner, failing to do this can result in the opposite, a fine and/or serious prosecution.


Driving After A Spinal Cord Injury: DVLA Assessment

After contacting and informing the DVLA of your situation you should hear a reply within six weeks. During these six weeks, the DVLA might contact your doctor or occupational therapist, arrange for you to be examined and ask you to take a driving ability assessment. This, it must be noted, is not a driving test, but instead, a mobility and ability test that will evaluate how and if you are able to safely drive, only then will you be licensed to drive. 

This assessment, along with the other information gathered by the DVLA, will allow them to assess your spinal cord injury and the condition that it has left you in and, subsequently, how it will affect your driving. It will be the DVLA that ultimately decides whether you are:

• permitted to have a new full driving licence

• if you qualify for a shorter licence with a review every 2 or so years

• if you need to adapt your car by fitting special controls

• or if you must completely stop driving and give up your licence

If you fall into the latter category you will also be given a medical report and reason why you must stop driving, and also be informed if and when you can reapply for your licence. It is possible to appeal against this decisions, but in most spinal cord injury driving cases, due to the very nature of the injury, being permanent paralysis, appeals are often unsuccessful.


Driving After A Spinal Cord Injury: Vehicle Modifications

If the DVLA’s initial thorough assessment reveals that you must adapt your car to be able to drive safely with your spinal cord injury, then you must attain an independent assessment of your adoption needs through the Forum of Mobility Centres. They have a number of centres that you can choose to attend that are at various locations throughout the UK.

Another very useful resource for information about adapting your vehicle to your spinal cord injury requirements, and where you can access assistive equipment, is the Rica charity, a consumer research charity for disabled and the elderly. 

Once your car has been adapted and approved by the DVLA then you are, once again, free to dive. This, for many spinal cord injury individuals, really can provide an invaluable lifeline. For those less fortunate, there are other alternatives in place such as the possibility of a career - please visit our website to find out more.


Driving after a Spinal Cord Injury: Things to consider

It must be noted that modifying a car is a very costly endeavour, and one that can for many prove to be too costly, when added to the price of adjusting to living a disabled life. 

Therefore it really is well worth considering claiming compensation for your injury. Even if you feel that you are partly responsible for your spinal cord injury, Aspire law may be able to help you and successfully win compensation for you that can make the world of difference to your life, once a spinal cord injury has been sustained; regardless of whether you can or cannot drive again.


Aspire Law

Whatever the cause of your accident, it is worth getting in touch with us, at Aspire Law, and speaking to one of our solicitors about your situation. We work quickly and efficiently to maximise the compensation award for our clients in the shortest possible timeframe, as we understand the immeasurable difference that it can make to you and your family.

Different injuries require different levels of care, rehabilitation and support. Our team understands how varied and complex the individual requirements of our clients and their family can be and this is why we work in partnership with the National Spinal Cord Injury charity, Aspire. This partnership has allowed us to develop a service that recognises all of the difficulties caused by spinal cord injuries and the adjustments required in order to regain a level of independence, as well as fully understanding the legalities involved.

We have successfully settled many claims where our client was partly to blame for the accident that led to their injury. It is important that you get in touch quickly because this will enable us to speak to as many witnesses as possible whilst recollection of the accident is still fresh in their minds.


See also...

How to Adjust to Life After a Spinal Cord Injury

Independence after injury: how a mobile phone can offer a lifeline to those with a spinal cord injury

Returning to work after Spinal Cord Injury