Driving with an SCI: How Autonomous Cars Improve Independence

Once you learn how to drive, it seems like the value of being able to get around is easily forgotten. Re-learning how to drive after spinal cord injury is not a task to be taken lightly. It can be emotionally and physically difficult to re-adjust to something that could have been taken for granted previously.

For those experiencing driving with an SCI, even travelling down the road can be an incredible challenge. Click to read more.

For those who have never experienced driving with an SCI, even travelling down the road can be an incredibly challenging experience. According to the Department of Transport, adults with disabilities made 26% fewer trips than those without a disability. Clearly, at a disadvantage, those with spinal cord injuries and other disabilities may miss out on social events, decent access to healthcare and a better quality of life.

Thankfully, the introduction of autonomous vehicles could be the next big thing to improve independence for people with SCI. While fully self-driving cars are yet to exist, brands like Tesla have created advanced autopilot systems that encourage further developments expected in the future.

The benefits of autonomous cars for spinal cord injury

The opportunities an autonomous car can offer to a person with spinal cord injury are worth praising. Below are just a few to consider as we anticipate the introduction of self-driving cars.

Mental health matters

It’s no surprise that feeling the effects of physical isolation will affect a person’s emotional wellbeing. According to spinalcord.com, one study discovered that spinal cord injuries doubled the risk of mental health problems. With 48.5% of people who sustain a spinal cord injury suffer from depression, 37% experience anxiety, 8.4% deal with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and a quarter experience clinically significant levels of anxiety.

With depression being the most common emotional issue after spinal cord injury, isolation from loved ones will only hinder the struggle. Autonomous vehicles allow those with SCI to access better healthcare, travel to work and simply drive for casual activities – enabling the lifestyle that many had before their injury.

Better physical accessibility

Newer car models are wider, but disabled parking bays are not getting any bigger. With wheelchairs and ramps, access to space is limited. Autonomous vehicles can move out of parking spaces on their own, offering better access to those who need it.

As self-driving cars progress, it is expected that they will cater to those with long-term disabilities, with the possibility that they will come fully equipped with additional accessible equipment such as ramps.

Better opportunities

Did you know that disabled people are almost twice as likely to be unemployed as non-disabled people? Travel woes are one of the main issues why. Those without a car are less able to travel to a consistent job than someone who can drive to and from work every day. Public transport exists, but it isn’t the easiest route for those with accessibility issues.

Autonomous vehicles could open the door to better opportunities and can help those with spinal cord injury travel to their desired place of education and employment – giving them a greater chance of success and much more independence physically, emotionally and financially.

Electric vehicles in the meantime

As we mentioned previously, autonomous vehicles are yet to become a reality, but electric vehicles have the potential to support those with spinal cord injury as we anticipate the arrival of fully self-driving cars.

Easily adaptive options

Electric vehicles, like standard cars, can be adapted to make driving easier for people with spinal cord injuries. Modifications like steering aids, electronic accelerators, hand controls and pedal adjustments can be installed to help drivers adapt to their spinal cord injury.

This kind of personalisation can re-install driver confidence, allowing for a safer drive with every journey.

Looking toward the future

It’s not an unrealistic goal to want to drive again after experiencing a spinal cord injury. Depending on the level of your injury, car adaptions in electric vehicles and the possibility of autonomous cars can give those wanting to drive with independence hope for the future.

Driving after a spinal cord injury can be a realistic recovery goal, depending on the severity and level of your injury. With the help of car adaptations, many individuals with spinal cord injuries can get on the road again and increase their independence.

If your spinal injury was caused by an accident that was not your fault, you are well within your rights to look for compensation.

We know that money will not fix everything after a spinal cord injury. But with our help, you can secure a financial settlement with a spinal injury compensation claim, which will help you and your family maintain a level of independence and enjoy a good standard of living. Get in touch with us today to find out more.