Certificate of Clumsiness
September 23, 2019 1:22 PM   Subscribe

I can't drive, and everyone who's ever known me has agreed that I definitely shouldn't drive, due to malcoordination which is probably related to my autism. In London, people who can't drive for medical reasons qualify for free public transport. Friends have suggested I apply for this, but I don't know how to prove that I don't have the physical ability to learn to drive.

I'm aware that not all clumsiness is the kind that should stop you from driving, but I'm pretty sure that mine is that kind. I struggle especially with coordinating my body when I can't see what it's doing, or doing things both fast and correctly - I am okay with needlework and knitting but struggle with handwriting, throwing/catching, climbing, and things where I have to work out the physics of bodily movement. I did eventually learn to ride a bicycle when I was a kid, but only after extensive tuition, and I still failed my Cycling Proficiency Test aged 11 due to 'lack of control of the bicycle' (to be clear, this is a test that almost nobody fails, and in fact some people that I've told about this were not aware that it was possible to fail it). I still cycled a lot in my teens but only on country roads while on holiday. This was not without incident, and I managed to scrape a bunch of skin off one side of my face falling off my bike in Germany, for the second time that trip. I'm actually sadder about not being able to cycle in London than drive, but I know that it would be insanely dangerous for me to do this when I struggle to stay on the thing, let alone navigate traffic.

I was never evaluated for dyspraxia, but last year I was diagnosed with autism by an adult diagnosis service run by the local authority in my area. I was told that the lifelong issues I've had with coordination are probably related to this. However, not all autistic people are affected in this particular way, so it's not like the diagnosis itself would make me unable to drive. My GP would be able to certify that I'm unfit to drive, but I don't see how they'd be able to assess that in an appointment and I feel really anxious about the idea of bringing it up and them not trusting me.

For what it's worth, the friend I've talked to most about this thinks that I would, separately, be unfit to drive because of the amount of anxiety that I feel about the idea of getting into an accident or injuring people - but also that in this instance it's not an unrealistic fear and that she'd be worried herself if I were in control of a car.
posted by Acheman to Health & Fitness (12 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Not an answer to your specific question but the difficulties you are having with your body is a “dysfunction”? Not sure if that’s the right word? Of your proprioception sense. It’s a sensory issue. Why don’t you get the application and ask for help.... Perhaps your doctor can help you describe it with more medical terminology but this is not mere clumsiness.
posted by catspajammies at 1:30 PM on September 23, 2019

Oh, and an doctor/occupational therapist should for sure be able to evaluate this.
posted by catspajammies at 1:31 PM on September 23, 2019 [1 favorite]

You should talk to your GP anyway. If you tell him you don't think you're fit to drive, and tell him why, he's likely to concur and write you the note. I doubt that there is a rigid course of evaluation he needs to follow in this case.
posted by ubiquity at 1:33 PM on September 23, 2019 [6 favorites]

If the Freedom Pass is the one, it looks like there's specific eligibility information:

and then an application form from the particular borough
posted by readinghippo at 2:16 PM on September 23, 2019

Seconding ubiquity, start with GP. This should be something like you couldn't pass the roadside DUI tests even when you're stone cold sober. There will be some attention and coordination tests and they're going to NOPE you out of driving.
posted by zengargoyle at 5:12 PM on September 23, 2019 [1 favorite]

Some of what you describe sounds like you may have depth perception problems. Have you had your eyes tested? A definable vision problem might help your case.
posted by zadcat at 6:35 PM on September 23, 2019 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: 1) Yeah, I've read the Freedom Pass eligibility. I'd be qualifying under category 7, which is a catchall one that basically means, you would not be eligible because a condition you have would make you an unsafe driver. I'm asking how to prove this/get it certified.
2) My eyes have been tested multiple times, and there's nothing wrong with them. I agree that it seems like a proprioception issue, I just avoided using this terminology in the ask in favour of more concrete examples.
3) Any advice on how to raise this with my GP? I'm fairly anxious about these things and it feels like a big ask. And how would they know that I wasn't just claiming this in order to get the pass?
posted by Acheman at 7:51 AM on September 24, 2019

I suppose that you would go to your doctor and tell him that driving doesn’t feel safe to you because of your difficulties, then he will probably ask what you mean and then explain to him how difficult it has been for you to ride a bike and how scared that makes you of being the driver of a car. Tell him you are on the spectrum as well. Unless he is a terrible doctor then you can have this conversation and of he is a terrible doctor than book an appointment with a different one. PERSONALLY, as another human being I applaud you for recognizing that driving is not safe for you or others on the road and I am happy for my tax money to partially contribute to your travel pass... it makes sense... it’s also environmentally friendly by the way! My son has sensory issues and severe proprioception problems which is how I knew about proprioception in the first place. You’re right that all doctors might not be aware of it, but tell him the concrete example about the bike and your issues with balance and catching and your diagnosis and it should make sense to him.
posted by catspajammies at 9:30 AM on September 24, 2019 [1 favorite]

Ps- I hope one day my son can manage pedals as well as you :-)
posted by catspajammies at 9:31 AM on September 24, 2019

Oh- and by the way- my sons issues were picked up very quick when he started preschool and occupational therapy is mostly covered in certain European countries. If you didn’t get that early intervention then you should by no means feel bad about claiming free travel as an adult. It makes you and everyone else safer and it’s not fair for you to have less mobility than a neurotypical person.
posted by catspajammies at 9:34 AM on September 24, 2019 [1 favorite]

Oh and if you don’t want to say autism then I would just say dyspraxia.
posted by catspajammies at 9:46 AM on September 24, 2019 [1 favorite]

#1. I found this giant list of conditions that can affect your driving and disqualify you from a license.

So among those conditions are, for example, depression, Asperger Syndrome, and autism.

Now they can't possibly disqualify everyone with depression, Asperger Syndrome, or autism from driving. But what they certainly mean is that all of those conditions could be ones that under certain circumstances can disqualify one from driving.

Obviously they intend to consult with your medical professionals to determine if any particular case of depression severe enough to impact your driving, etc.

Anyway, that is your golden ticket--medical professionals are clearly expected to communicate with the driver license people about whether those conditions impact your ability to drive, so if you ask them to do so I think they will consider it quite routine.

#2. Here is the form you fill out if you are a driver to report one of those conditions.

So if you were a driver and had one of those conditions and wanted to report yourself, it is clear what to do. Then once rejected as a driver, your application for a public transport pass would be clear sailing.

What is strange about your case is there doesn't seem to be a way to just apply for the transport pass directly. Rather, it is the driver license people who determine you are not eligible to drive, and then the public transport people would take it from there.

Anyway, if it were me I would personally do a bit of calling around and just ask. Call both the DVLA and the public transport. Explain the situation briefly. Just ask what the procedure is. Do you need to put in your medical condition to the DVLA and they'll rule that you can't drive, and go from there? Or do you just need a letter from your doctor explaining your medical condition, and that can go straight to public transport?

DVLA contact is here: https://www.gov.uk/contact-the-dvla/y

Freedom Pass application per council: https://www.londoncouncils.gov.uk/services/freedom-pass/disabled-persons-freedom-pass/apply

And looking at some of those, it looks like either the DVLA rejection or just a doctor's statement will do it:

You have been, or would be refused a driving licence because of your disability:

A DVLA statement regarding your inability to drive OR
A statement from a medical specialist confirming your condition and recommendation that you should not drive

If that's the case in your Council, just take the paragraph above, where you explain why you can't drive safely, to your doctor's office and see what they can do.

Again, from their side it should be pretty routine and something they are used to dealing with.
posted by flug at 3:54 AM on September 27, 2019 [1 favorite]

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