For many of us, our car is an important part of our lives and, particularly if you have a disability or care for someone who does, it can be key to retaining independence and mobility. From essential tasks such as commuting and shopping to socialising and trips away, the humble motor makes day-to-day life so much easier.
By Gary Buswell
With an estimated 1.75m disabled drivers in the UK, it’s clear that the freedom of car ownership makes a big difference to a lot of disabled people. We’ve put together some tips on how to get the most out of your motoring.
Good habits to save you money
Driving can be an expensive business but with a little planning, you can keep down your car’s running costs. How you drive as well as regular ‘doit-yourself’ maintenance hacks can make all the difference when it comes to cost-efficient motoring. Here are a few ideas to get you inspired:
- Keep topped up – with busy lives, it can be easy to overlook the oil and water levels in our cars but over time these can contribute to the less efficient working of your motor, even breakdown while out on the road. Check the radiator water levels, top up your screen wash and do the oil dip test regularly and both your car and wallet will thank you for it.
- Check your tyres – Underinflated tyres will see your car using up more fuel, so check your tyre pressures regularly, especially if you’re setting off on a long journey.
- Save fuel – you can get the most out of your fuel mileage with just a few small changes to your driving. According to the AA, dropping from 80mph to 70mph could save you up to 25% in fuel, while if you switch down from 60mph to 50 you’ll save around 15%. Accelerate slowly, maintain a steady speed, anticipate traffi c so you’re not making sudden speed changes and don’t drive too fast – all simple ways to get more out of that freshly fi lled tank.
- Cut back on weight – extra weight in your car can slurp up your fuel, so if you don’t need it, take it out. Roof racks and boxes can also zap your fuel due to air drag so make sure you get them removed when not in use.
Adapt to make driving easier
When buying your car, getting in and out as well as
For example, when getting in and out of your vehicle, swivel seats offer a great solution – they can turn 90 degrees or even come out of the car so you can lower yourself in. For a cheaper option, swivel pads or transfer boards can also help. If leg dexterity is an issue, then you could look at a hand transmission system, where your car is adapted so you can control the brake, accelerator and gears with your hands. Or, for reduced hand grip, there’s a T-Grip handle, which makes putting your handbrake on and off much easier. There’s also a range of external gadgets to make general driving much easier, such as a touch sensor to open and close the car boot or seat pads that comfortably elevate you in the driver’s seat, for a better, more comfortable (and
For more information on adapting your car, visit: www.safedrivingforlife.info/drivingdisability
Accessibility out on the road
If you’re a solo driver with a disability, one concern may be how you’ll refuel when out and about, with so many petrol stations now self-service only. An increasing number of petrol stations and fuel companies are now recognising the need to create accessible services for all their customers, which include wider spaces at the pumps and the option of attended pumps. Plus, with the rise of smart technology, there’s also a number of apps and wireless devices available so you can plan ahead. The premise is simple, by using
Esso has a pay from your car app while Shell has signed up to the Fuel Service scheme, a free app which lets you alert a petrol station when you need assistance. You can download the Fuel Service app for both iPhone and Android. There’s also a wireless device called My Hailo you can buy; a handy keyring fob that identifies which nearby petrol stations are on the scheme. You can also use the fob to call for assistance when filling up. For details on My Hailo, visit: www.myhailo.co.uk
Keep safe behind the wheel
Developing good driving habits to keep you safe applies to everyone. Here are some of the main ones to look out
Tiredness – when driving, you can keep tiredness at bay by taking regular breaks, especially on a
Vision – your eyesight must be at the required standard to drive in the UK so get your eyes checked regularly. If you wear glasses or contact lenses, make sure you have the correct ones when you drive and beware of night driving as it can affect some people.
Know your medications – your meds may affect your ability to drive and if in any doubt, seek medical advice, particularly if it’s a new prescription.
Keep an eye on existing health conditions – if you experience changes or fluctuations in your health or disability, this may affect your ability to drive safely. Discuss any concerns you may have with your GP to ensure you are still safe to be out and about on the road.
The Motability Scheme can help with adapting your car, sourcing a car or supporting you as you learn to drive. For more details, visit: www.motability.co.uk
For general advice and guidance on driving with a disability, the Research Institute for Disabled Consumers (
Make the most of the Blue Badge
Driving is one thing, but if you have a disability,
The Blue Badge scheme operates throughout the UK and enables drivers or regular passengers who qualify to be able to park in specially designated accessible spaces in public car parks. There are currently 2.35 million Blue Badge holders in the UK and around 850,000 are issued each year.
If you’re disabled or have a health condition that affects your mobility, or you care for a child with a health condition you can apply for a Blue Badge. Badges cost £10 and are renewed every three years. For more information: www.gov.uk/apply-blue-badge