If you suffer CRPS or from another form of chronic pain you’ll know that just leaving the house can be a huge achievement. But when you do venture out, what transport issues do you face? This is the first of three articles examining just some of the challenges posed by different modes of transport.
Here we consider issues surrounding driving a car in the UK, rather than travelling as a passenger. First, let’s consider the rules concerning holding a driving licence if you suffer from CRPS or another form of chronic pain. The DVLA say:
You must tell DVLA if you have a driving licence and:
- you develop a ‘notifiable’ medical condition or disability;
- a condition or disability has got worse since you got your licence.
Notifiable conditions are anything that could affect your ability to drive safely.
They can include:
- other neurological and mental health conditions;
- physical disabilities;
- visual impairments.
Well, that’s not hugely helpful, but it’s fundamental that you interpret the rule correctly in your particular case, as a failure to do so can result in a fine of up to £1,000 and, if you’re involved in an accident as a result, you could be prosecuted.
The DVLA does set out a long list of medical conditions and the reporting rule applicable to each. Unfortunately, CRPS is not on the list. It could, however, quite easily fall under the ‘catch all’ phrase “physical disabilities” if in your case it “could affect your ability to drive safely.”
Of course, that depends entirely on the nature of your CRPS and which part(s) of your body are affected by the condition.
Much comes down to common sense. If the condition affects your lower limb(s), then foot pedals are going to prove problematic. If it affects your upper limb(s), how does that affect your ability to steer, to use indicators and other hand controls?
Cognitive issues are also important. Anyone suffering chronic pain will understand the effect of their medication on their mental function. It’s usually a fine balance between optimising pain relief on the one hand and continuing to function as a human being on the other.
What to do
There are two steps you need to take. First, discuss the situation with your GP or pain specialist. However, they are highly likely to recommend the second step, which is to undertake a practical driving assessment. Indeed, if the DVLA have been notified of your condition by you or a medical professional, they may themselves refer you for a driving assessment at your local registered centre.
The aim of the assessment, for which there is usually a fee payable, is to assess your physical and cognitive ability to drive a vehicle both safely and comfortably. The assessor will offer practical advice on aids and adaptations that may assist that goal.
An example was a client of BLB with severe, longstanding CRPS in her left upper limb. Indeed, she had developed a claw hand. Despite that she was fiercely independent and fought to continue working, which involved a daily commute of over 20 miles each way. After struggling with public transport, she underwent a driving assessment. As a result she was allowed to continue driving, using a car with automatic transmission and a steering ball attached to the steering wheel. The difference this made to her life was incredible. No longer was she constantly fearful of fellow commuters bumping into her, and her daily round trip commuting time reduced from 3 hours to 1 hour 20 minutes.
In the UK, the Motability Scheme enables people with disabilities to lease a car in exchange for their mobility benefit (Higher Rate Mobility Component of Disability Living Allowance or Enhanced Rate of the Mobility Component of Personal Independence Payment).
Of course, the person with the disability does not have to be the driver, but if they do wish to drive, undergoing a practical driving assessment is advisable before the application is made.