4 Signs It May Be Time to Stop Driving If You Have a Disability
Imagine going to buy your first car, giving it a name, keeping it clean, getting used to your independence and then learning you have a disability or chronic illness. Much like getting an initial diagnosis and struggling with denial and acceptance, coming to the conclusion that I would have to sell my car because I could no longer drive safely did not go over well with the independent woman trait of my personality.
What started as needing more time to get in and out of the car eventually evolved into not be able to safely drive myself around without having to reposition my body, legs and even my foot on the gas pedal without additional help. This month marks the one year anniversary of giving up my car because of my muscular dystrophy. It wasn’t easy and I’m just now, a year later, going through all of the contents of a bag labeled “car” with a few tears in my eyes, but I know it was for the best.
Since then, I haven’t really missed driving myself around. I have found public transportation for those with disabilities in my local area and have a team of family, friends and health aides who fill in the gaps of my transportation needs. As I reflect on the last year, I want to share with you three important reasons that really helped me to understand and accept that it was time for me to make a change; and it may be time for you to make a change too.
1. Driving became a difficult task.
As I’ve discussed in other posts, living with muscular dystrophy can create physical challenges for ordinary, day-to-day tasks many able-bodied people my age take for granted. I noticed getting in and out of the car became troublesome. At red lights, I eventually needed to physically lift my leg from the break to the gas pedal. These were just a few of the signs that confirmed what I already knew to be true: driving myself wasn’t safe anymore for me or others.
2. Family and friends were concerned.
As I took notice of the physical challenges of driving, my family and friends began to notice too. My mom in particular started to suggest it may be time to transition to other forms of transportation. I wasn’t open initially, but over time I began to see she was right. It took some time, but my family continued to softly nudge me in the right direction. Sometimes the hardest truths are shared with us by the ones we love. Don’t ignore their concern.
3. I was holding on because of fear.
I realized that for me, having a car felt like my last leg of independence. I felt like giving up my car was like handing over my mobility. But once I made the transition to a wheelchair, I now experience more freedom than I did before. It may not sound as sexy, but I promise if you give the right wheelchair a chance, you’ll see for yourself how this new set of wheels can be the difference between barely moving throughout the day to getting where you need to go when you want to be there.
4. There were better options.
While I was in transition, I had the opportunity to test out a few of the many new, innovative approaches to getting around with limited physical mobility. One of the many resources I found included Mobility Works, a company dedicated to creating convenient driving options for folks with any type of disability. Many companies create custom vehicles and motorized personal transportation options to support the daily challenges people with differing levels of mobility face. I considered the custom made cars, but realized I just wasn’t interested in relearning the driving process that was required with the disability-friendly vehicles. That may not be the case for you. Whatever you choose, know that you have options.
When I opened that bag of items left from my car, I was a little sad, and I can’t say I don’t think about my car whenever I see a RAV4 pull up beside me in the parking lot. It still stings, but I know I made the right choice. Life is all about learning how to make the decisions that are right for us — even when they are painful or may take time to heal from afterwards. Regardless of where you are in your journey, don’t let change slow you down. Your next breakthrough is just beyond your biggest obstacle.
Getty image by G0d4ather.