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Driving With A Disability: 5 Important Things To Know When Starting Out

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Obtaining a license and buying a first car makes for an exciting time in anyone's life, but if you're disabled, it can be a little more complicated. Nonetheless, it should still be a time of great anticipation, as a rite of passage, just like everyone else. To make this time memorable and stress-free, there are a few things you need to know as a driver with a disability when you're first starting out:

1. The Americans With Disability Act Is Working To Protect Your Interests

You can't be treated any differently when you apply to insure your vehicle; however, applying for your driver's license may be a little bit different. You'll need to pass the written and road tests, just like everyone else, but you may also need doctor's letters to demonstrate your disability, along with applying for the special handicapped parking license plate. Your vehicle should also be adapted to your specific disability, be it with special hand controls for braking or other necessary modifications.

Beyond testing your ability to safely drive, as determined by the Department of Motor Vehicles that issues your license, no other judgments should be made against you. If you think anyone is not treating you fairly, you can file a complaint with the Department of Justice. So long as you can demonstrate your ability to handle your vehicle safely and obey the laws governing traffic, you should be good to go.

2. You May Need Special Auto Insurance

Like other drivers, you'll need to start with comprehensive and collision insurance coverage, which covers you and your vehicle for most situations where damage and/or loss occur. From there, it will be necessary to evaluate the vehicle modifications your car or van has undergone, and then for you to decide how much coverage you'd like on that equipment.

Customized vehicles call for customized insurance plans, and while you could explore a number of online options, it might be best to sit down face-to-face with an insurance professional who can answer all the questions you may have. Especially since you're just starting out with your license and all the additional factors that go with it, you should know exactly what you need, what you can expect to pay for it, and what, if any, discounts and programs might be available to you.

3. Other Factors Will Influence Your Insurance Costs

Beyond your disability, many other statistics can affect your costs and coverage with insurance. These can be fluid or static, with many different factors influencing your ultimate insurance outcome:

  • Your age and gender.
  • The type of vehicle you insure, along with how old it is.
  • Driving-related courses you may have taken (the more, the lower your premium may be).
  • Where you will be doing most of your driving.
  • Your occupation, credit score and marital status.

Because insurance can be such a complicated beast, it's important to have someone explain all the details and nuances so you can make the most informed choices.

4. Your Driver Training Should Be Specific To Your New Vehicle

While there's driver education in high school and other places, there's also additional training you might partake of in order to both lower the insurance premium you'll be required to pay, as well as to sharpen your skills and reaction times. While you won't be driving like Tom Cruise in Mission Impossible, you will be more adept in your skills and more prepared for the various scenarios you're likely to encounter on the road. If you do opt for this additional training, tell them about the modifications to your vehicle. Many training classes involve dual controls in the vehicle, so the instructor has the final decision, but your case may be different. No matter what, though, defensive driver training can go a long way in keeping you safer, especially as a driver who is new to the road.

5. You Can Get Help Paying For Your Adapted Vehicle

If, after sitting down and mapping out the plan to get you into a vehicle and on the road, you discover the costs involved are too steep for your budget, look for help. From the PASS Program of SSI (Social Security Insurance) to special discounts on your vehicle modifications directly from manufacturers, there should be a number of ways the outside world can help you into the vehicle you need. Your state may not charge you sales tax on vehicle modifications, and they could provide you with a tax benefit, as well. You never know until you try, and you really don't know unless you ask, so take advantage of the free advice you get from helpful people, like insurance professionals and DMV staff, and keep contacting the different agencies who can offer you the assistance you need to get behind the wheel.

From auto insurance to gaining vehicle-specific training, you have a lot to do in getting yourself ready for the open road, and you should expect a few speed bumps in the process. Just as a license and first car are a right of passage for everyone, so is jumping through the DMV hoops and overcoming other obstacles in your way. Hopefully, it won't be long before you're rolling down the windows and cruising down the highway, enjoying all the perks of your new-found independence.