To Drive or Not to Drive With MS

Living with multiple sclerosis (MS) changes many things in life. The impact of symptoms on the body makes certain tasks more difficult. For example, driving becomes more challenging as MS progresses. 

We recently asked the community, “Has MS altered your driving habits?”

There were many insightful replies about how MS impacts whether and how a person continues driving. Some respondents still drive, and others do not. Here is some of the community’s perspective in their own words.

It doesn’t feel safe with MS symptoms

Several respondents shared that they no longer drive for safety reasons. This is because their MS symptoms affect the muscles needed for safe driving.

“I haven’t driven in about 2 years. My body jerks and I have numbness in my right side.”

“I stopped driving 7 years ago. My reaction time from gas to brake is not good for driving. My entire right side is affected, so I don’t think hand controls would make enough of a difference for me.”

“My legs get numb and stiff.”

“I have problems with my eyes and my body getting tired. It’s harder to focus, especially towards the end of the day.”

Driving is too tough mentally

Other respondents who have stopped driving shared the mental toll it takes. Driving requires mental alertness and concentration. For them, MS makes that too difficult. So, for them too, it feels safer not to drive. 

“I haven’t driven for over 10 years now. Physically, I can drive. Mentally, I can’t. Tiredness and cog-fog can take over in a split second. I just can’t trust my brain anymore.”

“I stopped driving many years ago because the traffic moves way too fast for me. My physical and mental reflexes are too slow, and I just don’t want to be the cause of an accident.”

Some use cars with hand controls

One common change for respondents who still drive has been investing in hand controls. Most vehicles can incorporate hand controls that allow the driver to accelerate and brake using a hand-controlled button rather than foot pedals.

“I’ve used a scooter and scooter lift on my car for years, but after 40 years with MS, I recently got hand controls. I’m so thankful for my independence.”

“I use hand controls and love them! I actually enjoy driving, but I’m retired now, so I don’t drive every day.”

“I still drive. If it ever gets to the point I can’t drive with my feet, I will get hand controls. Thankfully, mentally and physically, I can still drive.”

Driving adjustments

Other respondents who are still driving shared alternative ways they have changed their approach to driving. Driving looks different for them than it once did. But with flexibility and a few adjustments to how and when they do it, they have found ways to continue driving.

“I still drive when I can, but I try not to drive at night. When I drive at night, I have to wear sunglasses. It’s the only thing that helps.”

“I am in my happy place behind the wheel. I always take surface streets and back roads to stay off the highway (racetrack for amateurs). I make sure to leave early so I can get out to stretch and enjoy different places.”

“I have to use my left foot on the brake now. That was my clutch foot when I was younger. The right moves too slowly now.”

“I have been lucky enough, even after 34 years MS positive, that I am able to continue driving. My left leg has issues, but luckily, I drive with my right, so we’re good there. I don’t go out in really bad weather and never under the influence of meds, but the fear of losing it is always in the mirror.”

“I had some formal advanced training as a teenager and have actually still managed to adapt well without hand controls. But I do have the occasional anxiety and will ask whoever’s with me to drive, or I’ll stay put.”

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