Getting back my driving licence

Well over a year after the process started, I finally got my new driving licence last week. It has been a complex and convoluted process to get here, so I thought it might be useful to pass on what I learned along the way. It is possible that I had a harder job persuading them because I am over 70, but I think that anybody would have had problems with the system at times.

My stroke was in September 2020 and took out my right leg and arm, although fortunately my eyesight, speech and mental processes were not affected. It was pretty obvious from the outset that I could no longer drive my car and I was surprised when a physio told me that it should be straightforward to get a car that I could control with just my left arm and leg.

The first step was that I sent my existing driving licence back to DVLA, having kept a photograph of both sides. I know some people are reluctant to do this even though you are required to do so, but I found that this was not an issue because they do not cancel the licence. If you put your licence number in to the DVLA website it confirms that you still hold a valid licence, even after you sent it back.

I duly got a form to return showing the modifications that I needed in order to drive. This meant arranging an assessment at my local disabled living centre, and of course early last year there were very long delays because of Covid. I paid for the assessment myself but I suspect I could have got myself referred to the centre and avoided this if I had known.

I finally got assessed at the start of July, and this consisted of going for a drive in a modified automatic car with left foot accelerator and a hand control on the steering wheel, which also allowed me to control the indicators. At the end I was told which numbers to fill in on the DVLA form to specify the modifications which I needed, and was sent a written report which said I should do fine but suggested some lessons in a modified car. I duly forwarded the form to DVLA medical group, and after about 4 weeks received a letter requesting a copy of the report, which I had not realised they would want. This letter warned me that reaching a decision could take them as long as six weeks, and in the meantime I ordered an automatic car and booked a couple of lessons for the weeks before it was delivered. About 7 weeks after sending the report, I received a phone call enquiring about my driving and whether I had taken the course of 10 further lessons which the report suggested. In fact I had taken fewer because the instructor said that I had got the hang of the modifications and having further lessons would be a waste of my money. This did not go down very well with the DVLA, even though it wasn’t a requirement for me to take lessons, and in November they wrote to me saying that I would have to undergo an appraisal by a driving examiner at a local driving test centre before they could reach a decision. I was eventually contacted by the driving test people and given an appointment at the start of January. By this time I was regularly driving myself around but I did not want to take any risks and so I had two more lessons in my own car which were very helpful as I got brought up to date on the fashion in driving tests and we went around the driving test centre and saw where it would be appropriate for me to park and which door to use. The appraisal itself was perfectly fine and less demanding than an actual driving test, with no theory test, so the examiner was able to tick all the green boxes for me. I thought that would be the end of it, but after the inevitable 4 week wait I simply received a letter enclosing a blank form like the one that I had sent back in July, asking me to complete it. There was no further explanation. Groundhog Day comes to the DVLA? I started by ringing the official number for the drivers medical group but of course got no response. Fortunately, when I had been in touch by telephone in the autumn I had been given a phone number so I rang the person I had spoken to before, and actually got through. He was very helpful and explained that the problem was that the codes that I had marked on the form I sent in back in July did not match the codes that the examiner had submitted. It seems that there is a lot of ambiguity in how different modifications can be described, which nobody actually explains to you. I should have kept a note of what I filled in and given it to the examiner. Even after discussing what to fill in with the DVLA it has taken a couple of iterations to satisfy them that they really have the right codes to put on the licence, but they finally issued me with one. Phew!

So my top points for anyone starting off on this journey are:

Keep a copy of everything you send to Swansea.

Send everything you think they might want because every time they have to get back to you will add 4 weeks to the process.

Don’t worry about returning your licence, it doesn’t get automatically cancelled.

Be prepared for a lot of waiting - but if you’ve had a stroke you’ll be good at that!


Hello :wave:. As someone who has no idea when or how I might drive again, it is really useful hearing your story so thank you for sharing. It must feel amazing regaining this important part of your life. Patience and perseverance paying dividends :+1:. Congratulations and thank you, Julia

@Bruce_Y wow what a journey that has been. Well done on persevering and getting your licence back. Thank you for sharing your experience it is really useful. I am currently awaiting a DVLA medical - now 3 months post stroke. That has seemed long enough and like you say every time you hear from DVLA it adds weeks to the process. Enjoy the freedom that driving gives you. Thank you again for sharing.

Hello Bruce-Y
Wonderful news another driver I can add to my list for the all important race against my Mini :red_car::wink:
I admire your grit/determination in getting your Driving licence back thankfully I didn’t have to go through such a quagmire with DVLA .
Fresh air & the added bonus of just getting out and away from the confines of your house make for me (anyways) calling it the 4 walls syndrome :flushed:
Even now I get such a buzz hitting that button on my key fob as I wobble up to my car with flashing indicator lights telling me the car is open strapping in & heading off be it to the shops or just a drive to park is for me very therapeutic
Enjoy fully the miles you clock up on your speedometer
Happy Safe Driving

Thanks Loraine - it is good to be able to share a story that ends well!

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Thanks Julia and my very best wishes for your own recovery. There is amazing gear out there once you ask the right people. Let’s hope the process speeds up now Covid restrictions have eased.

Good luck for your medical!

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Thanks Jordan - you are so right about the joys of independence. Next target is to walk to the pub…

Bruce y,

What story. I waited 13 months for my returning DVLA license also at 70. Got it back and then this year they wanted medical notes how I have been. Well GP notes got it back and I hope we have moved the line with them.

Well done congratulations

Thank you for sharing your experience with the DVLA there are always bad reports about them. I like you have just brought a auto car as my left side was affected. It is much better now. Cannot wait but a little nervous to be honest.Enjoy your new car and the freedom you get driving.

Dolla x

Hi Dolla
Thanks for getting in touch and good luck with your new car! The problems with DVLA seem to me to be the ones you get when the system is overloaded and the people I managed to speak to seemed to be genuinely trying to help. But even if you are prepared to feel understanding, it can still be infuriating. You are lucky to be able to carry on with your right foot, but will you need a hand control on the steering wheel? I have got used to it fairly easily but I find steering on the motorway gets tiring on my left hand so about an hour and a half is enough for one stretch. Having some lessons definitely helped my technique and gave me confidence that I wasn’t such a bad driver after all. Hope you get back on the road soon!
Best wishes

Thank you Bruce I am getting excited to my new car being delivered. One of my neighbours is a driving instructor so I am sure that he will give me some tips. Want to get back to bring active. Hard this week as I feel not good leg hurts and I feel a bit wobbly on my feet. Last week I was so bright and thought I was nearly there.
Thanks again.
Dolla xx

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Hi Dolla
I hope the car comes soon because that will really put a smile on your face! Sorry to hear about the leg. I have had a few minor health issues over the past year and they do knock you back in a way that they didn’t use to. But your leg will come back if you are sensible with it, and then - the open road!
Best wishes

Hi all I have my car and it has made me feel so good. First time driving it with hubby was a bit scary but now I just get in and off I go. A auto car is the answer. It means I can go shopping on my own. Great. xx

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Getting your license back the DVLA is not good. I waited 13 months till I got iback by being just 70 yrs and having a stroke!

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