What to Expect when Taking PA DMV Handicapped Driving Exam
More About Me
I haven't been hubbing a while since I had a stroke in 2015 At 45 years old. Actually, for a while I couldn't even type. Now, I can type with my one right hand and use the left a little,like for SHIFT key and SPACE bar. For about 6 months my left side was paralyzed. I was confined to a wheelchair. Anyone in a wheelchair knows it is the pits. Your whole life's perspective changes. Since then, I am able to use a leg brace and cane. I move quite literally stilted, like a zombie on the Walking Dead tv show with a cane. I still work hard at improving my gait but it may never happen. I have to keep trying though. I'd be great to run again.
My Adaptive Devices
So, my car is equipped with two adaptive devices, everyone is different and some need more devices, some need less, some don't need any. So, I have two handicapped adaptive devices.
1. Brodie ball (aka suicide ball). This attaches to the steering wheel and allows me to rotate it 360 degrees with my right hand. It also allows the car to take sharp, potentially dangerous turns. Due to the sharp turns, they are illegal in PA, so this is a big reason I have to retest using the brodie ball ..... to allow me to legally drive with it.
2. Right Handed turn signal extension. Turn signals are on the left side of steering wheel. Rather than the effort and expense of reinstalling the turn signals, there's a lever that can be attached to turn signal and extend behind the wheel where in can be reached with the right hand
See pics below
Turn Signal Lever (Adaptive for Right Hand)
Leading Up to test
I took some rehab driving lessons and drivers evaluation from a local rehab. First I had to get medical clearance from my doctor and give to school.Then the school sets up a school run evaluation. Here they evaluate if you can drive on you own ( if your already medically approved) without testing or if you more lessons, DMV ( Department of motor vehicles ) testing and/or special adaptive devices to help you drive. In my case, lessons, adaptive devices and retest at DMV was required.
Lessons using the rehab car equipped with brodie ball and extension began.
At first we just drove around. The evaluation was the same way. Lots of driving around major roads and side streets. My ability to adapt and to react to situations was observed and in some cases, corrected with more lessons.
Days leading up to the exam we did some practice of the exam itself. Ill get into that in a minute/
DMV Driving Exam
The exam is pretty much the same as any (non disabled) kid would take. Actually there were a lot of kids there too.
The driving school had to make an appointment for me, I couldn't go any time I wanted (I could go at my leisure when I was a kid)
The driving school met me at the exam and I took the exam in their adaptive car.
I sat in line and a DMV employee got into my car and sat next to me. Be sure you have your seat belt on.
He tells you to proceed. Be sure to take a quick glace around and check your mirrors in case there's any cars next to you. The first challenge of the DMV exam is probably most technically challenging...parallel parking. When I was young you just had to pull up within a foot of a curb. Now, you have to pull up and back in between two sets of barrels and get close to curb. I'd say the barrels are probably a car length pus four feet (just a guess). Hit the barrels= fail exam. Drive up on the curb = fail exam. Adjust the car more than three times while parking = fail exam. That said it is OK to touch curb and make as many adjustments leaving the parallel space as you want.
When exiting (and entering) the parallel space be sure to use you turn signal and look over your should briefly in the direction your turning.
Now, the technically difficult part is done. The rest is about not making mental errors which are easy to do while you are mentally "locked" into the test. After exiting the space you drive around a course similar to parking lot and ,in my case,I had to drive about a 1/4 mile on a "real" road a bit You will approach several stop signs. Stop completely for a few seconds before the line at the stop sign and be sure to conspicuously look both ways. when turning, be sure to use turn signal.
Show that you have awareness. While keeping you eyes on the road always, be sure to scan the road and don't stare at the street.
Also, remember the course is,at least the course I did, is 15mph. Know the speed limit before you start. If its 15 mph, use that to your advantage. If driving an automatic, you should hardly have to use the gas. Take it slow. Mentally, let things slow down. Let the slow pace of the let you organize your thoughts. Full stops at stop signs. Conspicuously look both ways. Follow speed limit. Signal in and out of parking. Look over shoulder when exiting parallel parking.
After the parking section ,I did a small course, which was a series of stop signs and out onto the main road ,which was two traffic lights and a right turn. Be sure to signal and glance over your shoulder for any lane changes. Finally, I parked in a regular/perpendicular space (be sure to pull all the way in and use that turn signal.
After the exam
The DMV employee took a minute to review everything I did wrong and made some suggestions. My errors were very minor so he passed me. He also reviewed his suggestions with my driving instructor.
From there I went into the office of DMV. In there, they double checked information the medical branch of DMV had (they did sent me a form a month prior for my Doctor to complete). When that OK'd, they issued me a new license with my handicapped control restrictions noted
I hope that helped answer what to expect to be tested on the PA DMV exam .