Saturday, February 13, 2016

I Failed the Driving Competency Test

Barb Polan
Barb's Recovery
Posted 2nd June 2011

It was for a specific reason: I did not have adaptive equipment installed in my car to compensate for my one-handed driving. I need a knob on the steering wheel and a device that allows me to control the blinkers without taking my hand from the wheel. Now, if that's a requirement, why did every Mass. RMV employee (including in the Medical Division), my driving instructor, and all my OTs and PTs I talked to not know that? All of them said I "could" get the equipment if I wanted to, not that it was required. How could none of them know? The closest was the suggestion that I have a driving evaluation by a post-stroke driving specialist to get his/her recommendations - it costs $300, which I didn't want to spend on someone who could say exactly what everyone else was saying. In fact, my driving instructor told me that the RMV "has to accommodate my disability," implying that if I use my right hand to do what my left hand is incapable of, I could still pass. My tester today, though, said that he really could not pass me because I MUST have the adaptive equipment. That's pretty "accommodating" of them, no?

And my driving instructor also told me that the tester is not allowed to ask me anything about my disability. But he did - he asked whether not being able to use my left arm was permanent. Everything in me wanted to say, "Not on your life," but instead, I said,"yes." I don't think a different answer would have made him pass me, so what does it matter?

The good news, though, was that the tester told me that I was a very good, very safe driver and that if I'd had the adaptive equipment, I would have passed. He said the parallel parking was a little "iffy" because the car was not lined up straight at the end, but that was the only thing wrong. (I know, though, that I turned the wheels the wrong direction when he asked me to pretend I was parking on the side of a road on a hill, with a curb - I should have turned the wheel left, but I turned it to the right. So, he was a nice guy, which makes me believe that if he COULD have passed me, he would have.

I am very disappointed to not have my license now, but am happy to have followed Millie's advice to approach the first test as a PSAT to discover what the test is really like. So, here I am today, in the same situation I've been in for 18 months - not able to drive by myself. Except that now I know what's required - and I'll let everyone who should know know so that they'll have the correct and complete answer the next time a hemiplegic person asks them the driving requirements in this state.

Now, if any of you are wondering why I never wrote about the upcoming driving test in this blog, I'll tell you: I didn't want to have to tell people that I failed. It was bad enough to fail, but the last thing I wanted was to have to admit it to absolutely everyone. And yet here we are. Post-stroke, there is no place for pride.

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