Previous studies have shown that the facilities offered by driving assessment centres have enhanced the work, social and leisure opportunities of many people with disabilities by providing them with the information and confidence to gain independence through car driving. This study aims to provide a longer term view of the benefits of driving for a group of 453 people with disabilities who were assessed for driving at Banstead Mobility Centre between 1982 and 1988 and who were all driving in 1989. The drivers in this study were surveyed annually by postal questionnaire between 1989 and 1992, to monitor the effects of driving on their lifestyle. A smaller group of 49 drivers who were assessed in 1982 and 1983 provided information over a longer time span and are considered in greater detail. Findings confirm the importance of being able to drive for this group. For many people driving allows them to be independent and to follow their chosen lifestyle. In particular, being a driver makes routine shopping trips and contact with friends and relatives a possibility for nearly everyone and for many it is essential if they are to work and have an active social life. It is also apparent that the benefits from driving are more widespread. Being able to drive not only enables many people to help others, primarily their family and friends, but also decreases the demands for the services of local agencies. In general, only a minority of drivers reported that they were experiencing any difficulties in relation to driving and assessment centres can be considered to provide the information and practical help required by most people. However the findings also emphasise the need for adequate tuition and retraining facilities and the provision of funding for suitably adapted cars. (A)

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