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Is Driving with Cerebral Palsy Safe?

practicing driving with cerebral palsy

Can people with cerebral palsy drive?

You bet they can! Just because someone has cerebral palsy doesn’t mean they won’t be able to drive.

Cerebral palsy is a motor disability that affects movement. However, thanks to car adaptations, many people with cerebral palsy can drive.

Is Driving with Cerebral Palsy Legal?

Under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), individuals with disabilities cannot be discriminated against for public services.

This means that the DMV cannot deny people the right to drive just because of their disability.

Each person must be physically and psychologically evaluated to ensure that they can drive safely without causing harm to themselves or others.

Is It Safe for People with Cerebral Palsy to Drive?

does cerebral palsy affect driving

Not everyone with cerebral palsy will be able to drive. It depends on the severity of their cerebral palsy, which areas of the body are affected, and what kinds of associated conditions the individual has.

Cerebral palsy can affect all different parts of the body. It can affect only the legs, one side of the body, one limb, or the entire body altogether.

By allowing an individual with cerebral palsy to drive, their occupational therapist (that specializes in driving rehabilitation) must be confident that the driver will not cause harm to themselves or others on the road.

Some conditions commonly experienced by people with cerebral palsy that may compromise safety on the road include:

Benefits of Driving with Cerebral Palsy

Every case of CP is unique, and while driving may not be safe for some individuals with cerebral palsy, others may be perfectly capable of doing so without causing harm to themselves or others on the road.

Driving can open a whole new world of opportunities for individuals with cerebral palsy.

They can go to work, run errands, and socialize without needing to depend on another person for a ride.

It increases mobility, which can help boost self-confidence, independence, and overall quality of life.

What Kinds of Car Adaptations Are Available for People with Cerebral Palsy?

car modifications for driving with cerebral palsy

There are many car adaptations that allow individuals with cerebral palsy to drive safely.

Car modifications will need to be determined on an individual basis.

Some commonly installed car adaptations include:

  • Hand controls, joysticks
  • Wheelchair lifts
  • Seat adjusters, swivel seats

Also, keep in mind that individuals will need to learn how to use car modifications, which can increase the time required to obtain a driver’s license.

Watch the video below to see how David uses his car adaptations to navigate the road.

How to Get a Driver’s License with Cerebral Palsy

So how does someone with cerebral palsy get a driver’s license?

Driving regulations for disabled drivers will vary from state-to-state, so check with your DMV to familiarize yourself with your state’s specific driving laws and procedures.

Generally, in order to get a driver’s license, a person with disability must:

1. Pass the Written Exam

While special accommodations may be made (a verbal test, extra time, etc.), people with cerebral palsy still must take the same tests as everyone else.

Individuals must be at least 16 years old to obtain a license but can get a permit and start practicing at 15 years and 6 months.

The written portion of the exam is to obtain your learner’s permit. Once you’ve passed the written test, you can practice driving with car adaptations.

2. Sign Up for an Adaptive Driving Program

An adaptive driving program will prepare and guide you through the process of obtaining your driver’s license.

With a physical and psychological evaluation, an occupational therapist will determine whether it’s safe for you to start driving.

An adaptive driving program will also assess what kinds of vehicle modifications you will need and teach you how to use them.

3. Get Car Adaptations

It’s essential that you have the car adaptations necessary to help you drive safely.

Vehicle modifications will help accommodate your motor impairment and make driving much easier.

You will not be allowed to drive without proving that you’ve installed the appropriate car adaptations.

4. Pass the Driving Test

The final step is to pass your physical driving test.

After that, you’ll be free to drive on our own!

Cerebral palsy can make tasks like driving much more difficult but with enough practice, you’ll learn how to overcome those challenges and boost your independence.

Cerebral Palsy and Driving

Driving can be a great way for individuals with cerebral palsy to be more productive, social, and confident in their abilities.  

Hopefully, this article helped you better understand that having a disability does not automatically exclude someone from driving.

By utilizing car adaptations, many people with cerebral palsy can become more independent and drive safely.

Featured image: ©iStock.com/didesign021

Keep It Going: See Fun Ways to Recover from Cerebral Palsy

Finally! There’s a recovery device for CP that’s actually fun to use. See how Flint Rehab’s tools are helping with CP recovery:

“The FitMi and MusicGlove have done wonders for my son with hemiparesis from cerebral palsy and stroke. It motivates him to do his exercises. It does not seem like therapy for him since it is fun. It monitors his progress so it is a great reinforcement for him. Music is a motivator for him. He has been using it on his arm and we will try the leg exercises soon.”

FitMi works by motivating high repetition of therapeutic exercises while playing an engaging game. This gamification has been particularly great for motivating individuals with cerebral palsy to recover.

To see how FitMi works, click here »

Take the Quiz: Which Flint Rehab Tools Can Help Your Recovery?

We’ll ask you 2-3 questions about your unique goals and conditions. It’ll take less than a minute. Click the button below to take the quiz on Typeform