Can I drive with Tourette’s Syndrome?

It took three attempts for me to pass my driving test.

I don’t feel this was due to TS, as my tics when driving are fairly mild compared to other sufferers.

However, I very much believe ADHD, OCD and anxiety played a part in my lack of focus, overthinking and panic.

In the UK at least, 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 TS if they decide not to make the authorities aware.

For the rest of the world, I will provide a link to your national organisations that may be able to answer this question in your country.


Topics covered:

  • Most mild cases probably won’t affect driving
  • Rules regarding driving with TS will depend on country and/or region
  • My experience with driving with TS
  • Potential fines and punishments for not declaring TS
  • Links to helpful articles and organizations

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My motor and vocal tics affect my driving as much as hiccups do. They are there, but aren’t going to be a danger.

I do on occasions have the urge to look in the rear view mirror not out of necessity, but as a form of tic. I can hold these in.

Saying that, I don’t really like driving. It took me three attemps because I was full of anxiety and was over cautious.

This made me overcompensate and be too confident on occasions, one leading me through a very late amber light on my test, failing me.

I once panicked at a junction and stalled. Fail number two.

TS is often associated with panic disorders and OCD, and for me these cause the problems.

But what about those of you that feel Tourette’s will affect driving?

Most people are probably fine

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

Many of these children lose tics, some stay into adulthood. However looking around you wouldn’t notice it. Most of the time these tics are very subtle regardless.

This will reflect in Tourette’s when driving. We don’t see 1 in 100 cars violently swerving into the hard shoulder every time we drive, the same way we don’t see the same amount of people doing complex tics in the street.

It is only for those with complex movements, or tics affecting sight or hearing, that will have to contact the authorities.

Honesty is key

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

TS 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.

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) 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

As each country varies in TS awareness and research, there isn’t a universal approach to tics and driving.

It is advisable to look up your national TS organisation and they will hopefully provide information on this.

This International Global Contacts list provides a link to Tourette Syndrome support in many countries. Please Note: It 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.

Hiding tics may have a less desired outcome. Instead be open from the start, I am sure 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. If in doubt, contact the relevant authorities and let your driving instructor know regardless.

There is no harm in asking, and the worst they can say is you can’t drive. This is only in the most extreme cases anyway, and it isn’t the end of the world even if this is the outcome.

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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