Can people with Tourette’s drive? It depends on this

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Can people with Tourette’s drive? It depends on two factors.

The severity of tics, and the countries laws.

In the UK for example, learner drivers do not have to tell the DVLA unless they feel tics will affect their driving. There may be a hefty fine for those with more severe Tourette if they decide not to make the authorities aware.

'Driving with Tourette' title with driver sticking his thumb out of the car

A link to national Tourette organisations has been added to the bottom of this post if you wish to find information in your country or region.

Severe or complex tics will be more troublesome

To be diagnosed with Tourette, multiple motor tics and vocal tics must be present.

These tics can be simple or complex.

Numerous tics at any one time- even mild- can be a distraction. This can cause stress and increase the likelihood of an accident.

This is why governments want to know if tics become a problem.

summary of factors addressed in this section
Some tics are more distracting than others

Many people with Tourette also have OCD.

Sometimes tics can adapt to our situation, and coincide with OCD and worries.

This additional factor must be taken into consideration, as tics can contain obsessional qualities.

It isn’t uncommon for someone with tics to have the urge to swerve, press down on a pedal or blink repeatedly. These tics can be supressed but may make tics worse later.

Additional obstacles associated with Tourette and driving

Common problems that sufferers experience are anxiety, sleep disorders and ADHD.

It is no mystery as to how these conditions may affect driving ability.

Tourette iceberg showing hidden problems associated with Tourette, a poster provided by tourette.org
Poster courtesy of tourette.org

Anxiety and attention deficit can really affect awareness. Impulsivity and behavioural issues can also negatively impact driving.

Sleep is vital for our cognitive function. Sleep disorders can have a huge affect on concentration, mood and reaction-time.

Most people are probably fine driving with tics however

It is estimated that 1 in 100 children has Tourette or another tic disorder.

For some, these tics remain in adulthood.

It can seem very rare to encounter a fellow sufferer, however. Most of the time these tics are very subtle and mild.

This will reflect in Tourette’s when driving.

A lady drives with the text 'most drivers will supress tics when driving, and understand what makes tics worse'
Tics can be supressed, depending on the person

We don’t see one-in-every-hundred cars swerving dangerously on the road because of tics, for the same reason don’t see the same amount of people doing complex tics in the street.

Only those with complex movements, or tics affecting sight or hearing, will have to contact the authorities about driving.

Honesty is key

Like any other aspect of life, we have to ensure we are being honest with ourselves and others.

Tourette should be treated on a case by case basis like anything else. Tic severity is on a spectrum, the same way we all perform differently on an eye test.

An instructor speaks to a learner. It is important to be honest about your Tourettes when learning to drive.
Tics, like eyesight, vary from person to person

If someone needs glasses, they need to wear them when driving. If eye sight worsens, they need to visit an optician and assess whether driving is still possible.

The same should be done if tics worsen over time.

The UK issues a £1000 ($1385 USD) fine for not telling the DVLA about a condition that affects driving

The DVLA states that if you are unsure, speak to a doctor. They will hopefully provide sufficient advice on whether or not tics will affect driving.

Source: https://www.gov.uk/tourettes-syndrome-and-driving

Most countries will (probably) have a similar approach

Each country varies in Tourette awareness and research, and there isn’t a universal approach to tics and driving.

The International Global Contacts list provides a link to Tourette Syndrome support in many countries.

Please Note: The above link is provided by the Tourette Association of America, so USA support is found on the website itself, not in the list provided.

Speak to your driving instructor when arranging lessons

By speaking to the instructor, they will have a better understanding of your situation and any tics.

You don’t want to be penalized or simply judged out of ignorance.

A man drives with an instructor in the passenger seat
Letting an instructor know about tics can help with learning

Hiding tics may have a less desired outcome.

Be open from the start. It will help build a better connection and put your mind- and possibly tics- at ease.

Stay safe, and get advice if you are unsure!

Most people will not be affected by tics when it comes to driving.

Definitely let your driving instructor know and if in doubt, contact the relevant authorities.

There is no harm in asking, and the worst they can say is you cannot drive. This will only be in the most severe case.

It isn’t the end of the world even if this is the outcome, and tics may reduce over time allowing you another assessment.

Can people with Tourette’s drive? Absolutely.

A driver celebrates passing his test
Tourette doesn’t mean we can’t enjoy driving!

Some can and will go on to be excellent drivers. Those with extreme tics will probably be aware of the obstacles already and understand what helps to reduce tics.

If you are in the process of learning, good luck and stay safe on the roads!


Sources:

  1. gov.uk- DVLA- Tourette’s Syndrome and Driving
  2. Tourette Association of America- Global Contacts

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