Learning to drive

The usual minimum age for driving cars is 17, but if you receive the higher rate of the mobility component of Disability Living Allowance, you can drive at 16.

Driving lessons and specialist driving instructors

All new drivers should have professional driving lessons and learner drivers with disabilities may want to look for instructors who have specialist knowledge of their needs. You may wish to speak to a local specialist instructor at Disability Action.

Look for instructors who have taken a special course. Experienced instructors can teach you more than how to drive, including:

  • how to get in and out of the car more easily
  • how to get your wheelchair in and out of the car (if applicable)
  • how to operate any adapted controls

Increasingly, instructors and driving schools have simple hand controls fitted to one or more of their fleet and will offer specialist tuition. If you are aged between 16 and 24, Motability may be able to offer financial support towards the cost of driving lessons.

Taking your driving tests

You should book your theory test when you have a thorough knowledge of the Highway Code and practical in-car hazard awareness. Only book your practical test once you can drive unprompted.

You must pass the theory test before you can book the practical test. If you don't pass a practical test within two years of taking the theory test, you'll have to take the theory test again.

The theory test

The theory test is made up of two parts – the multiple choice part and the hazard perception part. Some of the multiple choice questions will be presented to you in the form of a case study. A case study shows a scenario on which five questions will be based. The subject of the scenario will focus on real life examples and experiences that you might meet when driving.

The pass mark for the multiple choice part is 43 right answers out of 50 questions. For the hazard perception part it is 44 out of a possible 75 points. You must pass both parts of the theory test in the same sitting to receive your theory test pass certificate.

Theory tests are usually held at test centres, which are generally wheelchair accessible and offer specialist facilities for people with disabilities. However, arrangements can be made for you to take the test at home or at a different centre if your local centre is not accessible to you.

The theory test system has been designed to be accessible and is available in spoken as well as written format. Candidates with difficulty hearing can watch a video of the test in British Sign Language. The test conditions can also be adapted if you have light-sensitive epilepsy.

You can ask for extra time for the multiple choice element of the theory test, but will need to provide supporting evidence before this can be agreed. It's very important to mention any special requirements you may have when you book your test with the Driver and Vehicle Agency (DVA).

Please let the DVA know if you:

  • need access for a wheelchair
  • are deaf or have difficulty hearing
  • are dyslexic or have difficulty reading
  • do not read or understand English

The practical test

You will take the same driving test as every other candidate, regardless of your impairment or condition.

When you book your test, let the DVA know if you:

  • are deaf or have severe difficulty hearing
  • are in any way restricted in your movements
  • have any physical disability

Drivers with disabilities may be allowed extra time for their test. This is to allow you to explain to your examiner the nature and function of any adaptations you use and to allow you extra time to get in and out of the car. Driving examiners are specially trained to understand any special needs that may arise from disabilities.

How to book your theory or practical test

You can book your theory or practical driving test online or over the phone. Lines are open from 8.00 am to 6.00 pm seven days a week, except on bank holidays.

Disability Action's Mobility Centre

Disability Action's Mobility Centre is the only centre of its kind in Northern Ireland and promotes the independence of people with disabilities by offering advice and assessment on all aspects of personal mobility.

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