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Disabilities and driving (Factsheet 31)

Published: 11 2013

This factsheet provides information for drivers with disabilities. It gives general advice on some common disabilities and the impact they may have on obtaining or retaining your driver licence.

Disabilities and driving

Most people with a physical disability can get a driver licence, and most people who had a licence before they acquired a disability can continue to drive.

Advances in vehicle technology, such as power steering and automatic cars, have helped make driving possible for people with physical disabilities. In addition, almost any standard production vehicle can be modified.

Modifications that can be made to vehicles

Read about the requirements and process for vehicle modifications.

Getting on the road

If you have a physical disability, you should get professional assistance from a driving assessment service. The service can:

  • test your driving ability on the road
  • give advice on the controls and adaptations you need for access, seating, and to drive safely and in comfort
  • evaluate your muscle strength and range of movement.

For information on where to find your closest assessment centre, contact Enable New Zealand (0800 362 253).

I have a medical condition

If you have a medical condition such as diabetes, epilepsy, dementia or poor vision, or you've had a head injury, heart attack or stroke, check with your medical advisor.

The NZ Transport Agency (NZTA) has factsheets on most of these medical conditions. (Factsheet index)

I have a temporary disability

Disabilities such as broken arms or legs, migraines and so on may not stop you from driving, but you need to decide how safe you and other road users will be.

Plaster casts may be uncomfortable and can make it difficult to control a vehicle. You must get guidance from your doctor concerning how the cast will affect your ability to operate all the vehicle's controls.

I have a progressive disability

Multiple sclerosis, arthritis, Parkinson's disease, loss of hearing or vision, and aging may subject your body to changes that affect your ability to drive safely.

It's important that you are aware of the effect these conditions may have on your ability to control a vehicle safely. Don't assume that your driving won't be affected.

If you have a progressive disability, you may need to adjust your driving as changes occur.

If you take medication, or if your medication changes, you must make sure your driving isn't affected. Get professional medical advice.

I've had an amputation

If you've had an amputation, you'll need to consult your doctor. They may:

  • issue a doctor's certificate stating that you should only drive an automatic vehicle and/or that the vehicle should be fitted with special mechanical devices
  • refer you to a driving assessment service.

There's usually no difficulty adapting an artificial limb to a vehicle, or a vehicle to a limb.

For more information, contact a driving assessment service.

I suffer from deafness

If you're deaf, there's no reason why you can't drive a private motorcar. You may need to consider, however, the need for additional rear vision mirrors. Having side mirrors on both sides of your vehicle can help you detect vehicles that use sound and lights to warn drivers of their presence (eg emergency vehicles).

I have poor vision

Every driver must pass a standard eyesight test before they can get a driver licence. If you've got monocular vision (vision through one eye), you may be able to drive. You need to have a visual field of 140 degrees and 6/12 vision in your good eye. It's likely that you'll have a condition on your licence requiring external rear view mirrors on both sides of your vehicle.

Getting a driver licence

If you have a disability and you want to get your driver licence, you'll still sit the standard theory and practical driving tests. If you can only drive in a specially equipped vehicle, the test will be carried out in that vehicle.

Consideration of individual cases is possible and you may be permitted to drive subject to special conditions. Unfortunately, some people – for their own safety and that of others – aren't permitted to drive.

Applicants for licence classes 2 to 5 and P-, V-, I- and O-endorsements require special medical, eyesight and hearing examinations.

Parking concessions

If you have a disability, you may qualify for parking concessions. Contact your local CCS branch (formerly New Zealand Crippled Children Society) for information.

Mobility scooters and power chairs

An increasing number of people with disabilities are turning to mobility scooters and power chairs (electric wheelchairs) as a form of transportation. This is usually because they are unable to drive a motor vehicle.

Read about using a mobility scooter or power chair safely and legally.

Where you can find out more

  • Email us: info@nzta.govt.nz.
  • Phone our contact centre: 0800 822 422.
  • Write to us: NZ Transport Agency, Private Bag 6995, Wellington 6141.
  • Read the booklet Keeping mobile: How to use your mobility scooter or power chair safely. (Phone the contact centre to ask for a copy.)