Driving with cerebral palsy

There are a number of different types of cerebral palsy and the potential to learn to drive varies depending on the severity and what features are present. Automatic exclusions for driving which are common amongst people with cerebral palsy include, uncontrolled epilepsy, severe movement disorders such as athetosis and ataxia, inadequate vision and severe learning problems.

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Cerebral Palsy is a condition that is present since birth. Very often children who grow up with cerebral palsy do not have the same exposure to movement through space and needing to respond to a fast moving object that able body children have. This is often gained through sports – particularly ball sports, and riding bicycles. This exposure develops skills that will be required for driving such as judgment of distance and speed, and quick decision making. As a result of this, as well as other factors, people with cerebral palsy take a lot longer to learn to drive. Research has shown that learner drivers with cerebral palsy take up to 9 times more lessons than non-disabled drivers. Those who drop out during the learning process because they decided it is too difficult, do so after an average of 41 – 63 lessons. This makes it a very expensive exercise. It is also extremely difficult to assess the potential driving capacity of a person with cerebral palsy before they start the driving process particularly without the correctly adapted vehicle. They often need specialised vehicle adaptations, which will be required before they start with their driver training. This results in a significant financial barrier, making it very difficult for people with cerebral palsy to get started due to the costs and risks involved.