Key points | Identify the problem | Talk with your healthcare team | Things you can do to make driving comfortable | Car features, modifications and new cars | Keeping it legal | Funding for modifications | Insurance | Where to get help | How we can help | More to explore | Download PDF
Living with arthritis or a musculoskeletal condition (e.g. back pain, osteoporosis, fibromyalgia) can sometimes affect your ability to drive comfortably. Joint stiffness, fatigue and muscular aches and pains can make driving difficult and painful. Steering, doing up your seatbelt, checking your blind spot, or using the hand brake can be challenging. Even getting in and out of your car can sometimes be hard and cause you pain.
The good news is that in many cases, there are ways you can manage these problems to make driving safe, comfortable and less painful.
Before you can change anything, you need to really consider the situation and be clear about what’s happening. Just saying to yourself that ‘driving hurts’ is too broad, and doesn’t help you solve the problem.
By looking more closely at the situation and identifying the specific problem, you can then start working on solutions. So ask yourself:
Armed with this information, talk with your doctor, occupational therapist and physiotherapist for information and advice.
Discuss your condition and its management with your doctor. Is it being managed effectively? Are your medications and other treatments adequately controlling your condition, pain and other symptoms?
Visit a physiotherapist. They’re experts in movement and function and will work with you to increase or maintain your muscle strength and movement. They can also show you pain relief techniques and design an individual exercise program for you.
Talk with an occupational therapist. They can help you learn better ways to do everyday activities including driving. They can also provide information on aids and equipment to make driving easier. Some occupational therapists specialise in driving assessments and can help you remain driving as long as it’s safe for you to do so.
An occupational therapist can also help you with information about car modifications and how to use them, undertake driver training and advise you on licensing requirements and funding options.
As well as working with your healthcare team to make driving less painful, there are many things you can do to help yourself, including:
Find out more driving if you have arthritis and musculoskeletal conditions, including your responsibilities as a driver, dealing with fatigue, what happens if you can no longer drive, driver assessments and much more. Our top tip for travelling well is to be prepared and proactive.
Cars have come a long way in the last few years. There are so many features, modifications and technologies that make driving easier.
Depending on your condition, how it affects you and the joints it affects (e.g. hands, neck, back) some of the things that may help include:
You can get many of these features in a new car, or your car may be able to be modified to include these features.
Understanding your condition, and how driving can affect your symptoms, will give you an idea of what features to look for in a new car. Use the list you created when you assessed your situation – this can help you decide on the priority features you need in a car.
For information on modifying your car, or buying a new car that’s right for you, the RACV has developed two very useful guides:
Any modifications made to your car – both big and small – must comply with VicRoads guidelines. If major modifications are required, such as hand controls and changeable accelerator pedals a Vehicle Assessment Signatory Scheme (VASS) approval certificate is also required.
An occupational therapist must check that the modification paperwork meets compliance. Your driver’s licence must state that your car has modifications.
There are several funding options available to help eligible drivers make modifications to their car.
The Vehicle Modification Subsidy Scheme (VMSS) provides eligible Victorians with funding for vehicle modifications. You’ll need to be assessed by a prescribing occupational therapist or a VicRoads Accredited Driver Assessor to determine the most appropriate and safe modification.
The Employment Assistance Fund (EAF) is a Commonwealth Government scheme that gives financial help to eligible people with disability and mental health conditions and employers buy work related modifications and services, including modifications to work vehicles.
The Department of Veterans Affairs Rehabilitation Appliances Program funds vehicle modifications for eligible veterans.
The Australian Tax Office has a car tax concession to assist eligible drivers to claim tax concessions when buying, leasing or modifying a car.
Insurance policies can vary greatly. To ensure you’re covered, contact your insurance provider to see if any car modifications you’re planning will affect your insurance.
Call our MSK Help Line and speak to our nurses. Phone 1800 263 265 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
We can help you find out more about:
This information was made possible through a grant from the RACV Community Foundation.