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Driving after an SCI

On the Road Again

Driving after an SCI

Community transport after injury or illness.

There are many ways the government, ACC and businesses try to make driving more simple for you.


You can have a Mobility Parking Permit which is a permit that entitles you to park in more convenient spaces at shopping centres and other public venues. Forms are available from CCS Disability Action

Total Mobility Scheme

The Total Mobility Scheme provides subsidised taxi services to people who have an impairment that prevents them from undertaking any one or more of the following five components of a journey unaccompanied, on a bus, train or ferry in a safe and dignified manner:

- Getting to the place from where the transport departs

- Getting onto the transport

- Riding securely

- Getting off the transport

- Getting to the destination

This is usually 50% off the trip costs up to a maximum fare; set by the relevant regional council i.e. $35.00 within Canterbury.

Individuals that want to access Total Mobility trips must undergo an assessment to ascertain if they meet the eligibility criteria. A referral can be organised by your GP.

Car Rental

There are specialised car rental companies that have vehicles available for hire which have been fitted with hand controls, left foot accelerator pedals or wheelchair hoists.

This can be an interim option if you are waiting for your vehicle to be modified or if you are travelling and need access to a modified vehicle.

Community Based Services

Often there are local services available such as Presbyterian Support, Community Trusts, Wellness or Community Support agencies, St John Health Shuttle. Not all of these will be available in each area and only some will be wheelchair accessible. If you have never driven a car, or have lost the ability through illness or injury, you may find it hard to get to work, complete family roles and responsibilities or your social opportunities are limited.

The aim of this information is to provide details on the process of returning to driving, starting driving if you have never driven and providing community transport options if driving is no longer possible.

There are many processes that need to be worked through and numerous types of adaptive equipment that can be fitted to vehicles to accommodate your needs. This will outline the steps you need to follow as you learn to drive following an injury or illness as well as factors to consider for passenger transport with a wheelchair.

Sometimes driving from your wheelchair is the best solution and therefore your vehicle will require:

- Automatic door openers

- Automatic ramp or hoist

- Automatic wheelchair securing solution

- Changes to the vehicle floor to create space under the steering wheel or a 6 way seat that allows you to transfer from your wheelchair to the vehicle seat inside the vehicle.

There are Driver Trained Occupational Therapist, Specialist engineers and mechanics that can customise an adaption to suit you. The modifications that best suit may be similar or different to your friends and other people you know that drive using modifications. The important criteria is that the equipment identified is the most suitable for your needs. Gather ideas off the internet, friends, staff and others that use modifications. However, just like your wheelchair (if you use one) is specific to your needs; driving modifications should also be specific to your abilities.

Who can drive?

Many injuries and medical conditions result in a person recovering through the spinal units or receiving support through the NZ Spinal Trust. These include paraplegia, tetraplegia, Guillain Barre, spinal tumour, spinal bleeds, central cord syndrome and cauda equina as a few examples.

There are many success stories; and many people with a change of function following injury or illness can return to driving.

What adaptions can be made to my car?

There are many adaptions that can be made to vehicles to maximise on your abilities to achieve a return to driving. These include:

- Hand controls to replace foot controls

- Left foot accelerators

- Steering wheel spinners of many shapes and styles

- Gear selector extensions

- Pedal extensions

- Indicator toggle switch

- Indicators on the spinners

- Head and voice operated indictors

- Lightened power steering

- Seat track extensions

- Customised vehicle seating.