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Driving With MS: 12 Things You Should Know

Medically reviewed by Amit M. Shelat, D.O.
Written by Kelly Crumrin and Sarah Winfrey
Updated on January 18, 2023

Can people with multiple sclerosis (MS) drive? Absolutely. Although numerous MS symptoms can affect a person’s driving ability, many people living with the condition continue to be safe drivers for years. However, it’s common to worry about your ability to continue driving at some point after receiving an MS diagnosis.

Several aspects of MS can affect a person’s ability to drive. It’s important to understand how MS might affect your driving skills — and how driving might affect your MS symptoms. There are ways to overcome some of these issues and keep driving safely longer. As time goes on, your driving may change with your MS, so it’s good to keep evaluating your abilities, health, and safety on the road.

1. You May Get Lost More Easily

MS can affect cognition (mental functioning), so people with this condition may struggle with brain fog while driving. Nearly 500 members of MyMSTeam report getting lost easily as a symptom of their MS.

As one MyMSTeam member shared, cognitive problems can cause significant confusion: “Sometimes, I’ll be driving as usual, and the streets I’m on every day don’t look the same, and I don’t remember how to get where I’m going. My brain feels suddenly overwhelmed. This has happened on routes I have committed to memory. It’s not fun when I have to pull over to get directions from my phone to my own home.”

2. Your Reaction Time Behind the Wheel May Be Slower

MS can cause slowed reaction time. One MyMSTeam member wrote, “MS slows you down. I am doing everything at a much-reduced speed, including my driving. I stay off the road at peak times and drive at my own speed.”

3. Muscle Spasms Can Make It Harder To Drive

Muscle spasticity is a common symptom of MS (reported by more than 16,000 members of MyMSTeam) that can also affect your driving. If your muscles become stiff or spasm as a result of MS, you may have a harder time entering or exiting a motor vehicle. You may also be more likely to inadvertently jerk the wheel or step on the wrong pedal, which could be extremely dangerous.

4. MS Can Cause Vision Problems on the Road

MS symptoms may affect your vision, making it hard to see clearly while you’re driving. Blurred vision, loss of vision, and blind spots are all potential hazards when you’re behind the wheel. More than 17,000 members of MyMSTeam report vision issues as a symptom of MS.

5. Some Medications Can Increase Drowsiness

Some MS medications may cause side effects, such as drowsiness, poor coordination, or problems focusing, all of which can make driving difficult or dangerous. Muscle relaxants, commonly taken to manage muscle spasms in MS, are one example of medications that often cause drowsiness as a side effect.

When starting a new medication, ask your health care provider whether it might affect your driving ability.

6. Driving May Worsen Your MS Symptoms

Some people driving with MS experience significant physical impacts on their symptoms. A MyMSTeam member described their experience as follows: “Now, if I have to make a trip of more than two hours, I get what feels like ‘car lag’! I have no energy, massive cog fog, and the dumbest aches and pains EVER!”

If you can drive safely but feel MS-related fatigue or pain afterward, give yourself time to rest and explore ways to deal with your pain.

7. Changing Your Driving Habits May Help

Some people with MS successfully avoid worsening their symptoms by changing their driving habits. As one MyMSTeam member shared, “I still drive, but only locally for shopping, visiting, etc. I take the route of least resistance, even if it is a bit longer. I do the best when driving in the mornings, rather than later in the day when I’m beginning to wear down.”

8. Adapting Your Vehicle May Make Driving Easier

You may be able to modify your vehicle to make driving more comfortable. You can purchase hand controls for the brake and gas pedals, a spinner knob on the steering wheel, or specialized seats that make getting in and out of the vehicle easier. If you use a wheelchair, it may be necessary to purchase a wheelchair-accessible vehicle that can accommodate it. Adaptive equipment and accessible vehicles can enable you to continue driving for longer.

9. Laws May Require Testing To Keep Driving

Some countries and U.S. states may require you to undergo special testing and certification to keep your driver’s license after receiving a diagnosis of MS. You will likely have to drive with an evaluator in the car to ensure you can focus and perform tasks such as changing lanes safely and obeying the rules of the road.

10. There Are Signs That Driving May No Longer Be Safe

Experts recommend you consider a few things when evaluating your driving ability, including:

  • Whether you would want loved ones to ride with a driver like you
  • Whether family members seem reluctant to get into a car when you’re driving
  • How much help you need from others to see signs or follow directions when you’re driving

If your answers to prompts like these indicate a potential problem with your driving, it may be time to consider alternative means of transportation.

11. You Can Get Help Evaluating Your Driving Ability

If you’re concerned about driving with MS, talk to your neurologist. They can help you determine whether you can still drive safely and what continuing to drive with MS might look like for you. According to the National Multiple Sclerosis Society, you can also obtain a driving evaluation at a driver rehabilitation center. During a driving evaluation, an occupational therapist with a specialty in driving will assess how MS affects your ability to drive.

12. It May Be Wise To Scope Out Transportation Options

Even if your safe driving hasn’t come into question, it can be a good idea to look around at other options for getting around. Depending on where you live, there may be effective public transportation routes or rideshare services. You may be able to work out regular rides with family members, neighbors, or members of a spiritual community or other group to which you belong. Knowing your options may help ease your anxiety about the idea of perhaps having to give up driving one day.

Making Decisions About Driving With Multiple Sclerosis

Many people living with MS still drive, helping them maintain a sense of independence. One MyMSTeam member wrote, “If you’re still driving, don’t give up. Practice is important.”

Some people with MS choose to stop driving entirely, either due to symptoms of MS or because they no longer feel comfortable behind the wheel.

A member shared, “As for driving, much to my sadness, I have pretty much stopped because I’m not only a risk to myself; I’m even more concerned about the other drivers and/or pedestrians.”

Another member encouraged people with MS to avoid driving at times when their symptoms are making it too risky: “Don’t drive if you are concerned about your driving ability. Just like if you’d had that extra drink at dinner or were taking antihistamines and got sleepy from them, don’t drive when MS is messing up your skills.”

Some people find that their MS symptoms make driving much less enjoyable, even if their driving ability is still high. One MyMSTeam member explained, “I used to love driving, but now, when I decide to drive, I really get exhausted for over two days, and I get huge headaches related to light — either sunlight or night UV light.” This MS fatigue can make driving more tiresome than it’s worth, pushing people to give up driving or ask others for rides most of the time.

Hear From Others Who Understand

MyMSTeam is the social network and online support group for people living with multiple sclerosis and their loved ones. On MyMSTeam, more than 195,000 people come together to ask questions, give advice, and share their stories with others who understand life with MS.

How has MS affected your driving? Share your experience in the comments below, or start a conversation by posting on your Activities page.

    Updated on January 18, 2023
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    Amit M. Shelat, D.O. is a fellow of the American Academy of Neurology and the American College of Physicians. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Learn more about him here.
    Kelly Crumrin is a senior editor at MyHealthTeam and leads the creation of content that educates and empowers people with chronic illnesses. Learn more about her here.
    Sarah Winfrey is a writer at MyHealthTeam. Learn more about her here.

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