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Should You Be Driving?
Member Name: mdp97jes
Date: 20/03/02, updated on 20/03/02 (222 review reads)
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This op is aimed at people who suffer from M.E and have reduced mobility, but the information should be of use to anyone with a condition that affects their mobility and/or ability to drive.
There are no hard and fast rules about driving with M.E, it is up to you to decide how your condition affects you and to decide if you are safe to drive. You have to bear in mind not only your own safety, but that of other road users too.
There are conditions that have to be notified to the DVLA www.DVLA.gov.uk if they have occurred or got worse since you applied for your licence these include;
Chronic Neurological problems
Serious Memory problems
Brain surgery or tumour
Severe Psychiatric problems
Difficulty in using arms and legs
Alcohol or drug dependence.
Some of these are symptoms of M.E, but as the condition is variable and the symptoms not as serious as those listed, many people do not notify the DLA, but it is in your best interest to do so if any of these problems affect you seriously as you can be fined £1000. To notify the DVLA you need to contact;
Drivers Medical Unit
0870 600 0301.
When you are deciding whether you are fit to drive, you need to consider how you feel and use your common sense and if in doubt don?t do it. Think about whether you feel dizzy, what is your concentration like, how tired are you, do you have the strength to remove and apply the handbrake and to turn the car in a tight space and could you perform an emergency stop if needed. You also need to avoid driving if you are on any drugs that cause drowsiness, many anti-depressants do. Think about where you are going to drive to, are you familiar with the route, what are you doing when you get to your destination, can you park nearby, will you have the energy to drive back. I hav
e often been in the situation where I have driven somewhere and then struggled to get back again, because my energy has depleted. Also remember that driving in bad weather conditions is more stressful and requires more concentration. I know this all sounds a bit patronising, but you really do need to stop and think, I have often gone out without really thinking and then realised I should not be driving.
If you get higher rate DLA you will be entitled to a blue badge (formerly orange) for parking. You need to contact your local council for an application www.mobility-unit.dltr.gov.uk/bluebadge/la/index.h tm tells you who to contact in your area. If you do not get higher rate DLA, but have difficulty walking you may still be able to get a blue badge by asking your GP to make a statement for you, saying what your condition is and how far you can walk. I got mine this way. Blue badge holders can park free of charge at parking meters and pay and displays areas and also in some areas where parking restrictions are in force, but these need to be checked out first. The badge must be displayed when parked and the time of arrival set on the disc. If the badge is used when the person it is for is not in the car a fine of £1000 is payable. Most shops and public buildings have disabled parking areas close to entrances. If you fail to display your blue badge you are liable for parking fines. If the vehicle is purely for the use of the disabled person they may be exempt from paying road tax, but I am not sure of the details about this, but you should be able to enquire at the DVLA.
When insuring your car, you may be asked if you have any illness or disability, many people answer no as they are worried that their premiums will go up, but this is not the case insurances companies are not allowed to do this due to the Disabled Persons Act 1995.
If your journey is essential then consider other forms of transport or ask someone to take you instead. I cannot
comment on facilities in each individual area, but I can tell you what is available where I live. I am sure that facilities in most areas will be similar unless you live somewhere really isolated.
Most places have a reasonable bus service and you should be able to contact the local service to ask about timetables and where the buses stop. Some buses are adapted for wheelchair use, but not all so again you need to ask the local company. In my area we have a bus service every 20 minutes, which stops on the main road about 200 yards away, but I often find it a struggle even get to the bus stop and then there is usually a walk when I get off the bus too. If you get higher rate DLA and some other benefits you may be able to apply for a disabled persons concessionary bus pass.
Taxis are the easiest form of transport to use as they take you door to door, but it can prove expensive. In our area we have several local taxi firms and they often push business cards through the door, so we have the numbers pinned up next to the phone. If you do not know any local firms try looking in yellow pages or on www.yell.co.uk. Some companies get quite busy so it is best to book in advance, but it is not always necessary. Many supermarkets have telephones direct to the local taxi firm or have taxi ranks outside. Bus stations and rail station usually have taxi ranks too. Some taxis are adapted to take wheelchairs, but this service usually has to be booked in advance and is usually black cabs rather than the local private hire company.
If you are going on a longer journey or have a local rail station, then the train maybe a good option. Where I live we have a lot of local rail stations for trains that go into the city centre. At larger stations there are porters to help with luggage and wheelchairs if needed. Train timetables can be obtained from you local station, or at www.thetrainline.com. If you get higher rate
DLA or SDA you can apply for a disabled persons railcard, which costs £14 a year and gives you 1/3 off fares. If you book tickets more than a week in advance you usually get cheaper fares. Trains are comfortable and have toilets and often refreshments. Travelling by train is not as restrictive as other forms of transport as you can move around to relieve pain and stiffness.
National Express www.gobycoach.com/ run a coach service throughout the country and serve most towns and cities. Fares are cheaper than the train, but journeys take longer. If you are under 25, a student or over 50 you can get a discount coach card for about £9 a year. If you book your journey more than a week in advance the fares are cheaper than booking at short notice. It is advisable to book as some of the coaches get very busy and you may be disappointed if you turn up and try to get a ticket on the day.
I hope that I have covered all the information that you might want about getting around with M.E.