Driving And Mental Illness: All You Need To Know

Dr Handicap - mental illness

Driving with a mental illness can be stressful. But for a lot of people with mental illness, driving is a vital lifeline that keeps them connected to wider society.

In many jurisdictions, it is not always clear whether people with mental illness qualify for a disabled parking permit. Most states do not recognize mental illness as a direct qualifying condition. But often the physical side effects of mental illness will qualify a person for handicap parking. Also, quite a few physically disabled people who qualify for disabled parking also experience some amount of concomitant mental illness.

In this article, we will discuss all you need to know about driving with a mental illness.

Dr Handicap - disabled driving

Can I Drive With A Mental Illness In The United States?

Yes, you absolutely can drive with a mental illness in the United States. Most mental health disorders have no meaningful impact on a person’s ability to drive. However, having certain mental illnesses may require a person to take a re-examination to make sure that they are still safe to drive.

The mental illnesses that may concern the Department of Motor Vehicles are:

  • Dementia
  • Alzheimer’s
  • Schizophrenia
  • Bipolar Disorder
  • Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder

If you have one of these conditions, you may be required to take a re-examination.

Does A Mental Illness Qualify Me For A Disabled Parking Permit?

The vast majority of states do not recognize mental illness as a direct qualifying condition for a disabled parking permit. A notable exception is New York, which counts a mental impairment that “imposes unusual hardship in the use of public transportation and prevents the person from getting around without great difficulty” as a qualifying condition.

What Are the Qualifying Conditions For A Disabled Parking Permit In The United States?

The most common qualifying conditions for a disabled parking permit across all 50 states are:

  • Inability to walk 200 feet without stopping
  • Inability to walk without the aid of a prosthetic device, wheelchair, crutch, cane, zimmer frame, or another person
  • Limited use, or no use, of one or both legs
  • Use of a portable oxygen tank
  • Legal blindness
  • A Class III or IV heart condition according to American Heart Association standards
  • Severe limitation in the ability to walk due to an arthritic, neurological or orthopedic condition
  • Restriction because of lung disease to the extent that forced (respiratory) expiratory volume for one second, when measured by spirometry, is less than one liter, or the arterial oxygen tension is less than sixty mm/hg of room air at rest
  • A neuro-muscular dysfunction that severely limits mobility

Physical Side Effects Of Mental Illness Can Qualify You For Disabled Parking

Many mental illnesses can have an effect on people’s ability to function physically. Anxiety, depression, dementia, and several other mental illnesses can curtail a person’s ability to get around. If a mental illness impacts a person’s mobility or energy levels to the extent that they cannot walk 200 feet without stopping, they may qualify for a disabled parking permit.

Mental Illness Can Be A Side Effect Of Physical Disability

Some people who qualify for a disabled parking permit due to a physical disability may have mental health problems associated with the difficulty of living with a disability. Depression, anxiety, and PTSD can accompany the onset of a debilitating and life-altering physical disability.

Dr Handicap - disabled driving sign

Image by MabelAmber on Pixabay: Does mental illness qualify for a disabled parking permit?

Does The Intermittent Nature Of Some Mental Illness Impact Disabled Parking Rights?

Mental illnesses are often not permanent. Most mental illnesses debilitate a person for a period of time but then the symptoms ease. A lot of people who suffer from mental illness endure intermittent bouts of symptoms punctuated by periods of no mental illness.

Several types of disabled parking permits are available because the list of qualifying conditions for disabled parking is so varied.

What Types Of Disabled Parking Permits Are Available?

Each state has its own bespoke disabled parking program. But all states have a type of disabled parking permit that is tailored for people whose disability is short term or intermittent.

The most common types of disabled parking permit across all 50 states are some version of:

  • Permanent disabled parking placard or license plate
  • Temporary disabled parking placard
  • Organizational disabled parking placard or license plate
  • Disabled Veterans license plate

For drivers with a mental illness that affects their ability to walk, but that is intermittent, a temporary placard could be a good option.

How Do I Apply For A Handicap Parking Permit?

If you have a mental illness that affects your ability to get around or to use public transport, you may well qualify for a handicap permit. The best way to apply is online through Dr. Handicap. The team will set up an online consultation with a licensed physician, who will examine you and let you know if your condition qualifies you for disabled parking.

Featured image by 1388843 on Pixabay