Help for drivers with additional needs
A range of support is available for driving on Scotland's roads.
Drive at 16
Making driving accessible to everyone
Driving is a great way for us all to get out and about. If you have additional needs it can be more difficult. Support is available to help make learning and driving on our roads accessible to as many people as possible.
What you need to know
- Some people with additional needs can drive at aged 16
- A range of special vehicle adaptations are available
- Added time on your driving test is an option
- A Blue Badge lets you park in more places
- You might be exempt from road tax
- Good journey planning is important
Learning to drive
If you receive the higher rate mobility component of Disability Living Allowance (DLA), or the enhanced rate mobility component of Personal Independence Payments (PIP), you can apply for a licence at 16.
Some other things to keep in mind:
- You need to declare all disabilities and conditions to the DVLA when applying for your licence
- It’s a good idea to take lessons with a specially qualified driver trainer
- You can get specialist advice from one of the two Driving Mobility Centres in Scotland:
If you’re coming back to driving…
…following an illness or injury that’s left you with a disability or physical impairment, you’ll need to let the DVLA know. They’ll decide whether you need a new or shorter licence, a modified car, or, if you have to give up your licence.
Making changes to your car
If you have a disability, there are different ways a vehicle can be adapted so that you can drive more easily. Any changes should be recognised safety adaptations and only fitted by specialists.
Always check with your insurer, as adaptations might impact on your premium.
Specialist insurers can usually offer advice.
Although some changes are specific to individual cases, here are some of the main adaptations:
Hand controls for braking and accelerating
Seatbelt modifications or harnesses
Wheelchair storage equipment
Steering and secondary control aids
Left-foot accelerator conversions
Parking brake devices
Extra car mirrors
Automatic transmission and power-assisted steering can also help
How your driving test might differ
The eyesight, theory and practical tests won’t change.
You should mention any disabilities and conditions when you book your test.
This lets the examiner build in extra time, which is usually used to discuss any modifications, or to take a break if fatigue’s an issue.
Other reasons for extra time being allocated might be if you:
- Are deaf or have severe hearing difficulties
- Have learning difficulties, or special educational needs
- Are in any way restricted in your movements
- Have any physical disability
- Are missing any limbs
- Have a medical condition that doesn’t allow normal operation of the standard manual controls
A Blue Badge can make life easier
When you have a car, a Blue Badge lets you park in more places – so you can be closer to where you’re going. Here’s what you need to know:
- The scheme is processed by your local council and costs around £20
- You might need a mobility assessment with a healthcare professional
- They’ll check if you’re eligible and getting the support you need (which could take up to 12 weeks)
- Find out if you’re eligible for a Blue Badge
- Apply for a Blue Badge
Using the badge
A Blue Badge is registered to a person, not a car but it doesn’t mean you can park anywhere and you shouldn’t use it if the badge holder is not leaving the car.
If you break the rules you can be prosecuted, or given a parking ticket. So only use your badge if:
- You’re travelling in a vehicle as a driver or passenger
- Someone is collecting you or dropping you off and needs to park
You can use your Blue Badge to park in some restricted areas for free. Including:
- On-street parking meters
- In pay and display bays
- In disabled parking spaces
- On single and double yellow lines, if it’s safe and there are no loading restrictions
You’re not allowed to park:
- In loading/unloading bays, unless signs specify time limits for badge holders
- Where there are one or two yellow markings on the kerb (nearby signs will show the times when badge holders can or cannot park in these areas)
- At pedestrian crossings (including zebra, toucan and puffin crossings) and areas marked with zigzag lines
- At clearways
- At bus stops
- At school ‘keep clear’ markings during the hours shown on a yellow no-stopping plate
You can also apply for an on street disabled persons’ parking place. You’ll just need to meet the criteria set out in the Disabled Persons’ Parking Places (Scotland) Act 2009. This is meant for people who hold a current Blue Badge and:
- Don’t have access to any off road parking
- Don’t have use of a vehicle that’s registered at their address
- Would find it impossible to walk the distance between the vehicle and their home
Please note that disabled persons’ parking bays are available for use by any Blue Badge holder and not just the applicant. For more on this, contact your local authority.
You might not have to pay car tax
If you receive the higher rate mobility component of DLA, or the enhanced rate mobility component of PIP, you can apply for a car tax exemption.
Some things to keep in mind:
- The exempt vehicle must be registered in your name, or your nominated driver’s name
- It can only be used only for your personal needs
- You can only register for one tax exemption at a time
- If you receive the standard rate mobility component of PIP you can get a 50% reduction in vehicle tax
- You can’t get a car tax reduction if you receive the lower rate mobility component of DLA
Always plan ahead
If you are going on a journey, it’s especially important to think ahead.
As well as making sure the driver’s always fit to drive, here are some other tips:
- Make sure your vehicle’s in good condition with enough fuel
- Take frequent rest stops, at least every two hours
- Input any details into your Sat-Nav before setting off
- Avoid driving in really poor weather, unless it’s essential
- Have a fully charged mobile phone (and in-car charger) in case of emergencies
- Tell someone where you’re going and when you expect to arrive
- Know the rules of the road – see below for some important recent changes
Important new rules
- There’s now a new hierarchy of road users
- Those who can do the most harm have the greatest responsibility
- Drivers and riders have to give way to pedestrians crossing a road
- Pedestrians and cyclists have priority when turning in and out of junctions
- Drivers and riders need to give plenty of space when passing others. At least:
- 1.5 metres when overtaking cyclists at up to 30mph
- 2 metres and under 10mph for horse riders and horse-drawn vehicles
- 2 metres and a low speed when passing pedestrians walking on a road
- Cyclists can ride in the centre of the lane, or two side-by-side for their own safety
- In a vehicle, the door should be opened with the hand furthest from the door, helping to make drivers look over their shoulder to see cyclists or pedestrians nearby