Mobility Impaired

Mobility Impaired


Mobility impaired is defined for the purposes of this synthesis as a subset of the disabled population, specifically those who have a physical or functional limitation that affects their movement about their environment. This document has been compiled to highlight and summarise road safety aspects relevant to mobility impaired drivers, primarily in theUnited Kingdom. There is a relatively small body of research associated with mobility impaired drivers, hence research from outside of theUKis also presented where findings are relevant and believed to be transferable.

It is estimated that 5.9 per cent of licensed drivers in the UK in 2007 were licensed disabled drivers. However, the number of active disabled drivers in the UK in 2007 was thought to be in the region of 1.7 million (5 per cent). In reaching this figure subsets of the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) database were selected which align closely with conditions linked to physical impairment; therefore this figure is thought to be representative of the number of active mobility impaired drivers.

It is estimated that there is a significantly higher number of disabled drivers in the UK than the number of adapted vehicles. This implies that many licensed disabled drivers do not use or require adapted vehicles.

It is also estimated that there is a significantly higher number of adapted vehicles in the UK than the number of drivers whose licences actually restrict them to adapted vehicles. This implies that many mobility impaired drivers are themselves selecting adapted vehicles to make driving easier, safer or more comfortable; but license restriction is not forcing this decision.

Considering road safety, the risk of a disabled driver being involved in a Road Traffic Incident (RTI) was not found to be statistically different from the risk posed to drivers in general. An attitudinal survey of adapted vehicle owners in Sweden offers a complementary viewpoint: a large majority of respondents reported feeling safe or very safe, and that their confidence was high or very high, when driving their adapted vehicles.

Three potential areas of specific safety concern have been identified relating to mobility impaired drivers:

  • Restraints for wheelchair seated drivers are inconsistently used, owing to the bespoke nature of individual applications.
  • Access to and use of Emergency Roadside Telephones is a significant concern for mobility impaired users of the Highways Agency’s network.
  • There is a perceived problem relating to the safety of mobility scooters (in terms of risks posed to the mobility impaired driver / rider, and risks to third parties who may be involved in a collision).

The perceived problem with mobility scoters is heightened by a lack of reliable information. The number of mobility scooter users in the United Kingdom is not known and there exists a range of methods for estimating the number. An estimate of 330,000 was made in 2010 to the House of Commons Transport Committee.

Some countermeasures have been initiated to address risk from mobility scooters. An example is a training scheme provided by the Norfolk Constabulary, which appears to have had a positive effect on safe usage. However, this is based on anecdotal feedback rather than quantitative research.

Considering countermeasures more broadly, national road safety education for disabled people typically covers only those with learning difficulties or pedestrian users (i.e. not mobility impaired drivers). However, it is believed that a range of smaller educational schemes exist but are not widely known or publicised; for example, specialist private driving instruction.

Engineering countermeasures, such as improved intersection design, have been shown to reduce driving errors amongst older drivers. This is relevant if it can be assumed that functional impairment of some older drivers is representative of at least some mobility impaired drivers.

Overall, little robust data exists relating to mobility impaired drivers, their level of driving, RTI involvement and degree to which their impairment has contributed to any RTIs. Lack of data makes it difficult to identify policy priorities and impossible to quantify risk.

  • Date Added: 03 Apr 2012, 08:16 AM
  • Last Update: 14 Feb 2013, 05:43 AM