This information is for anyone with axial spondyloarthritis (axial SpA) including people with ankylosing spondylitis (AS)
Most people with axial SpA (AS) continue to drive
With the appropriate adaptations and driving techniques, even someone with a completely fused neck can drive safely.
You may well find an increase in pain and stiffness during prolonged periods of driving. So, on long journeys it is important to make frequent stops to stretch.
Make sure your vehicle is fitted with correctly adjusted head-restraints as even a relatively small impact can be serious for people with neck problems.
The law requires you to tell the DVLA about any condition that may affect your ability to drive safely
The advice given by the DVLA about axial SpA (AS) is that:
- If your axial SpA (AS) does not affect your safe driving you do not need to tell the DVLA about your axial SpA (AS)
- If your axial SpA (AS) does affect your safe driving you will need to tell the DVLA
- If you are unsure whether your axial SpA (AS) affects your safe driving you will need to check with your GP or rheumatologist who will be able to advise you
The DVLA would typically consider that your axial SpA (AS) was affecting your safe driving if you need adaptations to your car to be able to drive safely. This would things such as extra mirrors. You should also inform the DVLA if you feel you can only safely drive a car with automatic transmission.
Informing the DVLA
Once you have decided that you should inform the DVLA about your axial SpA (AS) you will need to download form G1 from the DVLA website or pick up a form from your local post office.
If you have a bus, coach or lorry licence you will need to fill in form G1V.
You will be asked to give your permission for a medical advisor from the DVLA to ask for medical information from your doctor if needed.
If possible, a decision on the information you have provided will be made. If more information is needed, a medical advisor may:
- Contact your doctor or consultant
- Arrange for you to be examined by a local medical officer or specialist
- Ask you to take a driving assessment, eye test or driving test
Once the medical advisor has all the information he or she needs, a decision will be made using the medical standards of fitness to drive to help with the decision.
- You may be able to keep your licence or get a new one
- You may be given a driving licence for a period of 1, 2 or 3 years if the medical advisor decides that your medical fitness needs to be reviewed in the future
- You may need to adapt your vehicle
- You may need to stop driving and give up your licence.
Help with Safe Driving
Driving Mobility is a a network of independent organisations who offer professional, high quality information, advice and assessment to people with any medical condition which might cause issues with safe driving.
You can be referred for an assessment by the DVLA or you can call your local centre to make an appointment for an assessment. Do bear in mind that if you are referred by the DVLA you will not be charged but if you contact them independently there is a charge.
They might offer advice on fitting additional mirrors, driving an automatic rather than a manual and devices to help with getting in and out of cars. The aim is to give help and advice on driving safely NOT to stop people driving.
Advice on driving without pain
The Chartered Society of Physiotherapy have produced a general guide to driving more comfortably. You can download the guide.
The Motability Scheme can help people lease a car by exchanging their government funded mobility allowance.
Even if you do not drive yourself, you can apply for a car as a passenger and propose named drivers.
Through the contract hire scheme you can lease a new car supplied by a Motability accredited dealer for at least three years. Insurance, routine servicing and breakdown assistance are included. You may need to pay for the fitting and removal of any adaptations.
You can apply if you have 12 months or more of your Disability Living Allowance (DLA) or Personal Independence Payment (PIP) award remaining. If your award is not renewed during the full length of your chosen scheme, your car will need to be returned.
At the end of the period, the car is returned to Motability Operations who operate the car schemes under contract to Motability
Blue Badge Scheme
The Blue Badge scheme allows people with severe walking disabilities to park in restricted areas.
All the information you need on applying for a Blue Badge can be found on the Gov.UK website.
There’s no legal right to appeal if you don’t meet the eligibility conditions for a blue badge. But the Department for Transport does recommend that local authorities have an appeals procedure in place. If you think you have been incorrectly or unfairly refused a Blue Badge, you can ask for a review of the decision.
You should be given a detailed written explanation of the reasons why your application was refused. You should explain to your local authority why you believe its decision is wrong. Let them have any evidence to support your case.
Watch our video about driving with axial SpA (AS).