Driving gives disabled individuals the freedom to get around independently. Disabled individuals who are able to drive can travel without using public transportation or relying on others and enjoy the freedom of driving their own vehicle. But just like every other driver on the road, drivers with disabilities are at risk for dangers behind the wheel, and it's essential that drivers with disabilities learn defensive driving skills. With defensive driving skills, all drivers can take steps to prevent accidents and hazards while driving.
Why Drivers with Disabilities Need Defensive Driving Education
Drivers with disabilities, particularly those with special adaptive driving equipment, have typically completed driver training courses. Most will work closely with a Certified Driver Rehabilitation Specialist to assess any special needs and install recommended equipment. This assessment and education teaches drivers with disabilities how to drive as well as how to properly use adaptive driving equipment. But what they may not teach is how to drive defensively, and defensive driving is a skill that is just as important as learning how to drive and using adaptive equipment. Additionally, it doesn't hurt to brush up on driving skills, laws, and defensive driving knowledge if it's been a few years since you've learned how to drive. Drivers with disabilities typically enroll in defensive driving courses for:
- Learning how to become a safer driver
- Updates on new statewide driving laws
- Dismissing a traffic ticket or accident
- Getting an update on driving skills
- Earning a discount on insurance rates
Are You Eligible for Defensive Driving Education?
Defensive driving can always be taken voluntarily. All drivers, including those that are disabled, are encouraged to complete defensive driving courses to learn how to become a safer driver. Of course, many drivers wait until there's an incentive to take defensive driving, such as a traffic ticket that needs to be dismissed, or an available insurance discount. But defensive driving is always open to drivers of all ages, skill level, and abilities.
If you're interested in taking defensive driving to dismiss a traffic ticket, it's important to learn about the policies in your state. Often, drivers are able to enroll in defensive driving with permission from the court, and then have the ticket dismissed upon successful completion. The offense will not be reported on your driving record, and you won't experience a hike in insurance rates. In some cases, defensive driving can be used to reduce points on your license, helping you to avoid a suspension for multiple or serious driving offenses. Learn more about the defensive driving requirements in your state.
Defensive driving is also available to those who would like to earn a discount on auto insurance. Taking defensive driving voluntarily is typically encouraged by insurance companies, and most will offer a discount on your auto insurance premiums upon successful completion of a defensive driving course. Get in touch with your insurance company to find out if you can earn a discount for taking defensive driving.
Defensive Driving Courses Available to Drivers with Disabilities
In most states, there is a standard defensive driving course available to all drivers. However, some states offer specialty defensive driving courses that focus on specific driving behaviors or target individuals of a certain demographic, particularly age. Specialty defensive driving courses available to drivers with disabilities include:
- Basic defensive driving: This standard defensive driving course focuses on the essentials in safe driving. You'll learn how to avoid and predict hazards on the road so that you can stay safe.
- Insurance reduction: Designed specifically for those who are already safe drivers, an insurance reduction course specializes in teaching skills and knowledge that will help you avoid accidents and traffic citations.
- Seat belt safety: This course may be required if you receive a citation for a seat belt violation. It will explain why seat belts are so important to saving lives in vehicles as well as how you can properly use a seat belt, including with any applicable disabilities.
- Alive at 25: Designed for young drivers, Alive at 25 offers life saving information for those who are new and inexperienced on the road. This course explains the most dangerous risks for drivers aged 25 and younger and how to minimize those dangers.
What You'll Learn in Defensive Driving Education Courses
Defensive driving courses teach drivers of all ages and abilities how to practice safer driving skills. You'll learn the essentials of avoiding accidents, improving safety, and recognizing hazards on the road before they become a problem. Typical defensive driving course curriculum includes:
- Avoiding drunk or impaired driving
- An update on state traffic laws
- Driving safely around large vehicles
- Improving your awareness while driving
- The dangers of distracted driving
- Accident avoidance techniques
Safe Driving Tips for Drivers with Disabilities
Make your driving experience as safe as possible by enrolling in a defensive driving course and following these safe driving tips:
- Ensure you're working with proper adaptive equipment: There are a number of different devices available to drivers with disabilities. These include hand controls, electronic driving aids, transfer seats, and more. Work closely with an adaptive driving specialist to make sure you've installed the equipment that works best for you. When choosing adaptive equipment, consider your needs in the present as well as any needs you may have in the future.
- Reduce distractions: Avoid the temptation to text and drive, talk on the phone, or otherwise engage in distracted driving. Driving is dangerous even when done perfectly; give it your full attention.
- Be comfortable while driving: You shouldn't feel awkward or uncomfortable when you're driving. Make sure that the equipment you use has a proper fit and that you're entirely comfortable while driving.
- Follow the rules of the road: Remember to follow the speed limit, observe stop and yield signs, and give right of way when needed. Simply following traffic laws can help you become much safer on the road.
- Always use equipment properly and remember to use security features: Use your vehicle and adaptive equipment as it was intended and always be sure to use available safety features. For example, you might need to remember to properly secure your wheelchair when you enter your vehicle.
- Drive when you're safest: If you're challenged by driving at night or in inclement weather, consider avoiding driving in these conditions. Instead, choose to run errands or set appointments when you know you'll be alert, able to see well, and ready to drive safely.
- Research medications: If you're trying out a new medication, be sure to ask your doctor and pharmacist about how it may effect your ability to drive. Some medications can cause drowsiness or interfere with your concentration and you should use caution before you know how the use of the drug will effect you.
How to Find a Defensive Driving Education Program
Learn how to become a safer, more defensive driver today. In our directory, you can learn more about available defensive driving courses from schools in your state.
GUIDE TO DEFENSIVE DRIVING FOR DISABLED DRIVERS (PHOTO BY ANDREW BAIN)