Skip to Accessibility Tools Skip to Content Skip to Footer
Quitting Driving: It Was Easy but So Difficult

Quitting Driving: It Was Easy but So Difficult

I have talked about driving here on MultipleSclerosis.net before, but today I want to approach this from a different angle. First, let me refresh your memory. In 2015, after a pretty bad relapse, my vision just went crazy! Nystagmus and Oscillopsia on top of the optic neuritis and reoccurring blind spot in my left peripheral vision (that would sometimes disappear for months and sometimes come back for just as long) made me decide to not get behind the wheel anymore.

I took myself off the road

That’s right, I didn’t lose my driver’s license, and no one was telling me that I couldn’t drive; I chose to stop driving on my own because I felt I couldn’t trust myself not to hurt someone else on the road. I knew I could (and I know I still can) pass any and all tests related to driving that the DMV could throw at me, but I also knew that they just don’t have the right tests to identify my visual problems as a danger or that those problems even existed. So it was up to me to take myself off the road.

MS has robbed me of enough already

But I wasn’t going to volunteer my license to the DMV; instead, I would keep it so that I could say that I am technically still allowed to drive but am merely choosing not to on my own because I believe it’s the right thing to do. I didn’t want to feel like that choice had been taken away from me because I am responsible enough to do what is safe without someone directing me. Multiple Sclerosis (MS) has already robbed me of enough anyway.

Feeling better about myself

Plus, when I encounter someone who obviously should not be driving but still has somehow managed to hold on to their license, I can low-key rub the “got to be a responsible adult” card in their face because “How selfish does someone have to be to endanger the lives of others just because they still want to drive a car?” When this happens (and yes, I do know people who drive despite them clearly being a danger on the road due to medical issues), I have to admit, it does make me feel a little better about myself. It’s almost all worth it for that one moment where I get to say, “Legally, I can drive; here is my license, but I haven’t driven in 4 years because I know I’m not safe on the road. I am choosing to be responsible and not drive anymore”. I guess I see it like I have the willpower to do what’s right and they don’t. I’m not sure what that says about me, but I don’t really care because guess what? I’m not going to smash a 2-ton weapon into an innocent driver or a pedestrian especially when driving is not a complete necessity.

One of the most difficult decisions to make

Now, I have (for the most part) mentioned all of this before, but first, I would say this is all worth mentioning a thousand times if it’s even remotely possible that I might help someone change their mind about getting behind the wheel when they probably shouldn’t. Secondly, it’s all necessary to repeat so that this next bit makes sense; giving up driving was an easy decision both morally and logically, but personally? It’s been one of the most difficult choices I have had to make in my life because giving up driving meant giving up a lot of my freedom… I mean… a lot!

Giving up a lot of freedom

No longer can I wake up to realize that I am out of creamer for my coffee and just run to the store to pick some up really quick. Everything like shopping has to be so carefully planned because getting a last-minute ride usually turns into a huge endeavor. “Sure, give me like 20 minutes and we can go but while we’re out I want to stop by this other store, and then I also have to do this” and then even though I just needed coffee creamer I won’t end up getting back for an hour at which point I don’t even want coffee anymore. I hate that I can’t run quick errands on my own and when I want to!

Driving was a way to clear my head

I also hate that I can’t just “get away” to think for a minute like I used to. Before, when I was stressed out or just needed to clear my head, I would just hop in my car and drive. I wouldn’t know where I was going, and I didn’t care, I just drove. Now, I feel so stuck in one place, and even after 4 years, I still haven’t found a new way of “just getting away” like I used to so I can clear my head. Maybe it sounds dumb, but it really helped me manage my stress. The open road, the hum of the engine, and the subtle vibration of my tires on the highway. Plus, I just hate not being able to drive. I loved the simple act of driving, and now all I can do is sit in the passenger seat and stare out the window at other people not knowing how to drive (because I live in California where people don’t seem to understand that cars come with a blinker feature), and it drives me nuts! I could drive so much better! Ugh, I just miss it! The freedom! The feeling of the steering wheel gripped in my hands and the feeling that I could go anywhere I wanted. The feeling of acceleration upon pushing down on the gas and the feeling of being in control; the feeling of power!

Giving up freedom to do what’s right

From the moment I was 15, I was dying to start driving, and when I did I felt like my life had changed. I had so many options! But when MS took that away from me? Or rather, when MS made me have to choose to stop driving? Everything changed again, only this change sucked. Sometimes, I still hope and dream that one day my vision will magically return to normal so that I can buy a new car, get behind the wheel, and drive 100 miles through the desert to Barstow, not because I have to but because I can. But I am realistic, and I understand the course of this disease, so I have pretty much come to terms with the idea that I’ll never drive again, and as much as that sucks, it’s OK with me because it’s the right thing to do. Without hesitation, I’ll give up the freedoms that driving gave me to do what’s right.

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The MultipleSclerosis.net team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

Comments

  • eparks
    6 months ago

    This is an awesome post reading. I can relate. It”s not because of my eyes I gave up driving but because of the spasticity in my legs, drop foot, slowed reflexes and coordination issues–all which would effect my driving. I too miss just getting in the car to go get what I need from the store or to take a nice road trip with my son. Driving is therapeutic! God bless you my friend. I hope others who read your article will think.

  • Matt Allen G author
    6 months ago

    Thank you, I hope so too!

  • StephNA311
    7 months ago

    Yeah this was my exact worry when I’d get ‘drop leg’ and at times can’t move or feel my foot/feet, so I gave my driver license back to service Ontario. Photo ID is just as ugly as the drivers license photo just so you know no smiling is allowed.

  • Matt Allen G author
    6 months ago

    lol yeah the IDs… Did you ever consider hand controls? I had a friend with MS that had hand controls put in her car and they were awesome!

  • jennyb
    7 months ago

    I have not driven for more than 2 years. I also still have my license. It was hard to give up, but when somebody said, “gee i am so sorry that I ran over you” I made up my mind.

  • jennifyr52
    7 months ago

    Thank you Matt. I totally identify with your dilemma about whether or not to continue driving. May I ask, since you still have a driver’s license, are you still insured? If so, how much are you paying?

  • Matt Allen G author
    7 months ago

    Oh no, I am not insured, I don’t even own a car anymore, really having my license is just a way to feel like “I can drive but I am CHOOSING not to. The option wasn’t taken from me, I am responsible enough to do what’s right” you know? Maybe that is dumb but it makes me feel better haha.

  • Froggie
    7 months ago

    Oh, how I miss driving! It was a way for me to explore my environs and get out of the house for a stint. I decided, however, it is safer for everyone if I don’t get behind the wheel. The final straw was when I had neuropsych testing done about seven years ago. I realized I just don’t have the depth perception nor the reaction time necessary to drive. It was one of the hardest decisions I’ve ever made, but I’d rather be safe than sorry.

  • Matt Allen G author
    7 months ago

    I know, it’s tough, it’s very tough, but you earned yourself a badge of honor most people just can’t achieve due to things like pride so right on!

  • barbzwires
    7 months ago

    I still drive. But I no longer drive on the highway. A couple years ago while driving on the highway, my arms and hands seized up to the point of extreme pain. And in the last year I have realized that my reflexes aren’t as quick as they used to be. So I stay on regular roads and give myself plenty of time to get where I need to go. If my reflexes become too slow, I will quit driving myself.

  • Matt Allen G author
    7 months ago

    It’s all visual for me, turning my head makes it all worse so for me surface streets would be so dangerous but the freeway? That seems “easy”. But with other visual issues, I’m just staying away.

  • potter
    7 months ago

    I still drive but not very much or very far. I have only had one incident, it didn’t involve a accident but it was a wake up call. It was a very hot day and I was running errands for my mother in-law. I was turning a corner and the oncoming cars seem to be headed right at me. So I changed into another lane and almost hit another car. I talked to my neuro about it and he said I shouldn’t drive on hot days but I was fine to drive otherwise.

  • Matt Allen G author
    7 months ago

    That is scary, it would terrify me to be so… not in control? When I am behind the wheel, I need to be totally in control haha…

  • Hershey21
    7 months ago

    This was an EXCELLENT article!! I so identified w/ EVERYTHING that Matt said. I too voluntarily gave up driving. Not because of vision problems but because I no longer had enough feeling in my feet to adequately “feel” the gas and brake pedals. I simply didn’t feel it was responsible for me to drive. I share ALL the feelings of loss. Fortunately I have a very supportive husband who drives me OR runs errands. I’m very thankful BUT STILL miss being able to drive!

  • Matt Allen G author
    7 months ago

    Have you guys looked into having hand controls put into your car? I have driven with a friend who also has MS and she had hand controls and they were awesome, maybe that is an option?

  • Maddie1021
    7 months ago

    I quit driving for the same reason are my feet are more numb. I hate it but knowing I’m doing the responsible thing.

  • lightweaver
    7 months ago

    I felt tears of empathy. I am there.

  • Matt Allen G author
    7 months ago

    Glad you can empathize, means you are responsible and mature enough to do what is right for the world around you 😀

  • Shelby Comito moderator
    7 months ago

    We hear you, @lightweaver. Thanks so much for taking the time to share. We’re thinking of you! Best, Shelby, MultipleSclerosis.net Team Member

  • Hershey21
    7 months ago

    I so related to that article!!!!

  • Poll