Driving with disabilities

Having a disability doesn’t mean you can’t live your life to the fullest. Nor does it mean you should miss out on the convenience and independence that comes with driving. Thanks to a range of benefits and vehicle modifications, driving can be a normal part of a disabled person’s life.

According to government data, there are more than 1.2 million people in the UK registered as disabled drivers. Whether you are returning to the UK after being away for a period of time or have recently returned, it’s important you understand the facts about driving with a disability and how to stay safe on the road.

In this article we look at how the rules around driving with a disability may have changed since you’ve been living away from the UK. We also give you the lowdown on support for disabled drivers, car modifications and driving when you are older, as well as looking at the benefits of expat car insurance.

Do you live with a disability that affects your driving?

Chances are, having a disability will not prevent you from driving. However, a lot depends on your individual circumstances. It is estimated that millions of people are driving with conditions and disabilities they should – but haven’t – told the DVLA about. And this is creating unnecessary risk for them and other road users.

If you are now living with a disability, it might be very evident that your driving is affected. If you have suffered a stroke, for example, your ability to operate a vehicle safely might be significantly impaired. In such situations, informing the DVLA will probably be an obvious step on your return to the UK. 

However, the situation is not always clear cut. For instance, issues with your eyesight or diabetes might not impede your day-to-day life, but the DVLA still needs to know about them.

Being upfront about any medical conditions or disabilities will also make the process of applying for expat car insurance more straightforward.


Which disabilities do you have to declare?

Not all medical conditions or disabilities prevent you from driving. But as discussed, you must inform the DVLA of any condition that may affect your ability to drive safely.
If you are a new driver applying for a provisional licence, you should declare your disability on your application form.

If you are an expat returning from abroad and already hold a driving licence, you shouldn’t wait until your licence is due for renewal. Let the DVLA know immediately of your disability or if your disability has become worse since you have been living in another country.

You could be fined up to £1,000 if you fail to tell the DVLA about a condition or disability that affects your driving. If you are involved in an accident as a result of your disability, you could also be prosecuted. Not giving information about your current state of health could also mean your expat car insurance becomes void if you were to be involved in an accident.

Once the DVLA has the relevant information, it will be able to assess whether you meet the medical standards that state you are fit to drive.

If you are unsure whether you need to declare a disability or physical impairment, your doctor will be able to advise you.

For more information about disabilities and driving, you can also visit the Gov.uk website.

What car should I drive if I’m disabled?

As with all drivers, the type of car you drive will depend on the type of car in which you passed your driving test. For example, if you took your test in an automatic car, then you should stick with an automatic and not change to a manual.

Equally, if you took your driving test in a modified car, you’ll need to continue driving a car with those same modifications.

Modified cars are designed to make driving more straightforward for people with disabilities. Vehicle modifications include hand controls if a disability affects the lower half of your body, foot steering systems if a disability affects the upper body, and wheelchair hoists which give an individual access to the vehicle without assistance.

What benefits can you get?

There is a range of support and financial help available for disabled drivers. This includes:

1 Blue Badges
As a disabled driver, you are able to apply for a Blue Badge which allows you to park in more convenient parking spaces and can qualify you for free or discounted parking. You do not need to be driving or hold a driving licence for a Blue Badge to apply – you can also be a passenger in a vehicle.

A Blue Badge lasts up to three years and costs up to £10 in England, £20 in Scotland, and is free in Wales. You can apply for a Blue Badge via Gov.uk and it usually takes around 12 weeks for your application to be processed.

2 Tax exemptions for disabled drivers
As a disabled driver, you are entitled to receive a vehicle tax exemption if you receive the:

-        Higher rate mobility component of Disability Living Allowance (DLA)
-        Enhanced rate mobility component of Personal Independence Payment (PIP)
-        Higher rate mobility component of Child Disability Payment
-        War Pensioners’ Mobility Supplement
-        Armed Forces Independence Payment

If you receive the PIP standard rate mobility component, you can get a 50% reduction in vehicle tax. But if you get the lower rate mobility component of the DLA, you are not eligible for a reduction.

You claim the exemption when you apply for vehicle tax, which you can do online. However, if you are applying for an exemption for the first time or have changed your vehicle, you must make your claim at a Post Office.

3 Motability
The Motability scheme allows people with a disability to exchange their mobility allowance for a new car. It allows you to lease a car, scooter or electric wheelchair of your choice. How much of your benefit goes directly to the scheme will depend on the vehicle you decide to lease.


Driving when you’re older

Driving in your later years can be a real joy. You have the freedom to hit the open road when you choose and if you are an expat returning from a stint overseas, getting behind the wheel of a right-hand drive car again can feel like a treat.

If you want to continue driving after the age of 70, you need to renew your licence every three years.
However, while there are no laws stating when you should stop driving, it all comes down to your health and ability to drive safely.

If you have been living overseas for a period of time and you have developed a disability that could affect your driving, you must tell the DVLA. Contrary to what some people believe, this does not necessarily mean you will be forced to stop driving. It is however a legal obligation and your expat car insurance might not cover you if you find yourself involved in a traffic accident.

Whatever your age, if you are returning to the UK from abroad, you need to be aware that things may have changed since you were last here. Make sure you have the latest information that allows you to make informed decisions.

Adjusting to life without driving

For many of us, driving is part of our daily routines and accepting we can no longer drive can be tough. However, reducing the amount you drive – or giving up driving completely – doesn’t signal the end of your independence and freedom.

Whether you have made the decision to stop driving yourself or have been asked by the DVLA, there are plenty of alternative ways you can get around. You may be able to get help with transport costs and could find using public transport is significantly less expensive than running a car.

Adjusting to life without driving can take time, so make sure you have the support you need from friends, family and your GP.

Get a quote from Insurance Factory

Life may have taken you on adventures outside the UK, but Insurance Factory is here to help you get back on track (and safely behind the wheel) when you return home again.

Our expat car insurance policies are designed for UK residents returning to the UK. If you are navigating the world of driving with a disability, our team of specialists can give you the advice and support you need to stay mobile.

At Insurance Factory, we have more than 20 years’ experience of arranging car insurance and are confident we can find you a policy to suit you and your driving needs. Whether you have a UK or International Driving Licence, we’ll work hard to secure you the best rate.

Benefits include:
  • Specialist cover available returning from most EU/commonwealth countries for International Licence holders.
  • Comprehensive cover
  •  Tailored policies to meet your requirements
  • Flexible payment options
Speak to one of our team and get a quick quote for expat car insurance today.

Policy benefits, features and discounts offered may very between insurance schemes or cover selected and are subject to underwriting criteria. Information contained within this article is accurate at the time of publishing but may be subject to change.