Coping with Driving Changes
While it is well-established that many visual, sensory, motor and cognitive symptoms that are part of MS can interfere with safe driving, there are no established guidelines as to who is fit to drive.
The effect of MS on driving varies from person to person, depending on their driving habits, the types of symptoms they have, and how severe those symptoms are and the environment in which they drive.
Research shows that compared to the general population, drivers with MS:
- Are over three times more likely to be in a car accident
- Drive faster
- Have a much higher variation of speed under constant conditions
- Move around the lane much more
- Poorly prioritise tasks, meaning they cannot focus on driving if they are trying to do more than one thing or are distracted
- People with “mild” MS drive about as much as people without MS, about 2.7 trips per day
- People with “moderate” MS only drive an average of 1.5 trips per day and rely much more on public transportation or other people to drive them.
How can MS affect my driving?
Coordination of your arms and legs –– important for changing gears, breaking and acceleration
Strength – to use foot pedals and the steering wheel
Vision – ability to focus, to see signs on the edge of your vision, to judge distances, to see obstacles that have poor contrast with their surroundings, to cope with glare and changes in your visual field.
Fatigue –can make all your MS symptoms worse
Concentration –easily distracted by the radio, other cars or passengers or difficulty doing two things at once
Feeling dizzy –or vertigo. Difficulties with balance and monitoring sensations of movement – very important for driving
Reaction times – the time between something appearing in your visual field or hearing something such as an emergency siren, and your responses
Memory – knowledge of road rules and signs and the way to get from A to B
Changes to sensation – a problem if you cannot feel the pedals under your feet, or if you can’t feel the gear shift, so have a look each time you change gears