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MS research update - Does mild to moderate MS affect driving performance? - 22 May 2013


In this research, participants used a driving simulator to drive in daily traffic while, at the same time, being given another task to attend to. The study found that people with mild to moderate MS (EDSS scores of 2.5 to 4) were just as able to drive as healthy controls. However, people with MS scored less well on the task designed to distract their attention. The authors concluded that people with mild to moderate MS were able to successfully prioritise driving over other distractions.


Being able to drive is central to many people's lives, allowing them to be independent and do many of the things which are important to them such as working, socialising and caring for children.

This study looked at whether mild to moderate MS made a difference to someone's ability to drive especially if their attention was diverted to something else.

How this study was carried out

15 people with MS and 17 healthy controls in Belgium took part. Those with MS were mildly or moderately affected by their symptoms as reflected by their scores on the EDSS scale which ranged from 2.5 to 4 (average of 3.5). The EDSS scale measures ability in eight functional systems including the visual, sensory, cerebral and pyramidal systems. This should measure difficulties that might affect driving such as eyesight problems, numbness, cognitive problems or difficulty moving arms or legs.

An EDSS score of 2.5 represents mild disability in one functional system or minimal disability in two functional systems. An EDSS score of 4 represents significant disability but self-sufficient and up and about some 12 hours a day and able to walk without aid or rest for 500m.

In the research, participants used a driving simulator to drive in daily traffic while, at the same time, being given another task to attend to. A computer measured various aspects of driving including the number of tickets, the number of accidents, the time to a collision, how well speed was maintained and how well someone drove in a smooth line.

The computer also measured how well someone performed on the second task which could be diverting their attention from driving.

Finally, people with MS also completed a clinical exam which included tests for motor, visual, psychosocial and cognitive function.

What was found

No difference was found in the ability to drive between people with mild to moderate MS and healthy controls. However, people with MS scored less well on the task designed to distract their attention. Compared with healthy controls, they were slower to respond and gave fewer correct answers.

What does it mean?

The authors concluded that people with mild to moderate MS were able to successfully prioritise driving over other distractions as they performed just as well as healthy people.


This research will be reassuring for people with mild to moderate MS who drive a car. However, everyone with a diagnosis of MS who holds a driving license still has to inform DVLA of their diagnosis (see below).

Devos H, Brijs T, Alders G, et al.
Driving performance in persons with mild to moderate symptoms of multiple sclerosis.
Disabil Rehabil. 2013 May 17. [Epub ahead of print]

More about driving with MS

People with MS in the UK are required to tell DVLA, who issue driving licenses, as soon as they are diagnosed or if the condition has become worse since their licence was issued. DVLA may then contact their doctor or ask for an assessment of how MS might affect the ability to drive. This will determine whether a license is retained, revoked or issued for one, two or three years then reviewed.

There is more information about driving with MS here including on:

  • The Forum of Mobility Centres who offer information, advice and assessment to people with a medical condition which may affect the ability to drive
  • Motability, a national charity that helps people with a disability and their families to become more mobile through providing adapted vehicles
  • Ricability, who produce a publication that explores choosing and adapting a car and driving with MS.

Free road tax is available to people in receipt of the higher rate of the mobility component of Disability Living Allowance (DLA) or the enhanced rate of the Personal Independence Payment (PIP). The vehicle still needs a current tax disc, but there is no charge for this.

The Blue Badge scheme provides parking benefits for people with a disability who travel either as drivers or as passengers. They are issued by the local council, usually the County Council. You can find your relevant local council here or apply online.

Research by topic areas...

Symptoms and symptom management

Preziosi G, Raptis DA, Raeburn A, et al.
Gut dysfunction in patients with multiple sclerosis and the role of spinal cord involvement in the disease.
Eur J Gastroenterol Hepatol. 2013 May 10. [Epub ahead of print]

Disease modifying treatments

Khan O, Rieckmann P, Boyko A, et al.
Three times weekly glatiramer acetate in relapsing-remitting multiple sclerosis.
Ann Neurol. 2013 May 20. doi: 10.1002/ana.23938. [Epub ahead of print]

Edan G, Le Page E.
Induction therapy for patients with multiple sclerosis: why? when? how?
CNS Drugs. 2013 May 9. [Epub ahead of print]

Other treatments

Jara M, Barker G, Henney HR 3rd.
Dalfampridine extended release tablets: 1 year of postmarketing safety experience in the US.
Neuropsychiatr Dis Treat. 2013;9:365-70.
Read the full text of this paper

Halpern R, Gillard P, Graham GD, et al.
Adherence associated with oral medications in the treatment of spasticity.
PM R. 2013 May 3. doi:pii: S1934-1482(13)00245-1. 10.1016/j.pmrj.2013.04.022. [Epub ahead of print]


Araki Y, Kinoshita M, Motoyama R, et al.
Month of birth in multiple sclerosis with and without longitudinally extensive spinal cord lesions: A study of a Japanese national survey.
J Neurol Sci. 2013 May 4. doi:pii: S0022-510X(13)00168-8. 10.1016/j.jns.2013.04.006. [Epub ahead of print]

Langer-Gould A, Brara SM, Beaber BE, et al.
Incidence of multiple sclerosis in multiple racial and ethnic groups.
Neurology. 2013 May 7;80(19):1734-9.

Assessment tools

Lapshin H, Lanctôt KL, O'Connor P, et al.
Assessing the validity of a computer-generated cognitive screening instrument for patients with multiple sclerosis.
Mult Scler. 2013 May 7. [Epub ahead of print]

Causes of MS

Ponsonby AL, Lucas RM, Dear K, et al.
The physical anthropometry, lifestyle habits and blood pressure of people presenting with a first clinical demyelinating event compared to controls: The Ausimmune study.
Mult Scler. 2013 May 13. [Epub ahead of print]

Nielsen NM, Jørgensen KT, Bager P, et al.
Socioeconomic factors in childhood and the risk of multiple sclerosis.
Am J Epidemiol. 2013 May 9. [Epub ahead of print]

Lunny C, Knopp-Sihota JA, Fraser SN.
Surgery and risk for multiple sclerosis: a systematic review and meta-analysis of case-control studies.
BMC Neurol. 2013 May 6;13:41.
Read the full text of this paper

Vitamin D

Torkildsen Ø, Løken-Amsrud KI, Wergeland S, et al.
Fat-soluble vitamins as disease modulators in multiple sclerosis.
Acta Neurol Scand Suppl.2013;(196):16-23.


Lehan T, Arango-Lasprilla JC, Macias MÁ, et al.
Distress associated with patients' symptoms and depression in a sample of Mexican caregivers of individuals with MS.
Rehabil Psychol. 2012 Nov;57(4):301-7.

Psychological aspects

Sumowski JF, Leavitt VM, Cohen A, et al.
Retrieval practice is a robust memory aid for memory-impaired patients with MS.
Mult Scler. 2013 May 14. [Epub ahead of print]

Sumowski JF, Rocca MA, Leavitt VM, et al.
Brain reserve and cognitive reserve in multiple sclerosis: What you've got and how you use it.
Neurology. 2013 May 10. [Epub ahead of print]

Roberg BL, Bruce JM, Lovelace CT, et al.
How patients with multiple sclerosis perceive cognitive slowing.
Clin Neuropsychol. 2012;26(8):1278-95.

Physical activity

Latimer-Cheung AE, Pilutti LA, Hicks AL, et al.
The effects of exercise training on fitness, mobility, fatigue, and health related quality of life among adults with multiple sclerosis: a systematic review to inform guideline development.
Arch Phys Med Rehabil. 2013 May 10. doi:pii: S0003-9993(13)00361-4. 10.1016/j.apmr.2013.04.020. [Epub ahead of print]

Motl RW, Mullen S, Suh Y, et al.
Does physical activity change over 24 months in persons with relapsing-remitting multiple sclerosis?
Health Psychol.2013 May 13. [Epub ahead of print]

Hilgers C, Mündermann A, Riehle H, et al.
Effects of whole-body vibration training on physical function in patients with multiple sclerosis.
NeuroRehabilitation. 2013 Jan 1;32(3):655-63.


Svensson J, Borg S, Nilsson P.
Costs and quality of life in multiple sclerosis patients with spasticity.
Acta Neurol Scand. 2013 May 18. doi: 10.1111/ane.12139. [Epub ahead of print]

Palmer AJ, Colman S, O'Leary B, et al.
The economic impact of multiple sclerosis in Australia in 2010.
Mult Scler. 2013 May 7. [Epub ahead of print]


Burns MN, Nawacki E, Kwasny MJ, et al.
Do positive or negative stressful events predict the development of new brain lesions in people with multiple sclerosis?
Psychol Med. 2013 May 17:1-11. [Epub ahead of print]

Heussinger N, Kontopantelis E, Rompel O, et al.
Predicting multiple sclerosis following isolated optic neuritis in children.
Eur J Neurol. 2013 May 12. doi: 10.1111/ene.12184. [Epub ahead of print]


Khademi M, Dring AM, Gilthorpe JD, et al.
Intense inflammation and nerve damage in early multiple sclerosis subsides at older age: a reflection by cerebrospinal fluid biomarkers.
PLoS One. 2013 May 7;8(5):e63172
Read the full text of this paper

Weissert R.
The immune pathogenesis of multiple sclerosis.
J Neuroimmune Pharmacol. 2013 May 10. [Epub ahead of print]

Yusuf A, Koski L.
A qualitative review of the neurophysiological underpinnings of fatigue in multiple sclerosis.
J Neurol Sci. 2013 May 4. doi:pii: S0022-510X(13)00174-3. 10.1016/j.jns.2013.04.012. [Epub ahead of print]

Provision of care

Markwick R, Singleton C, Conduit J.
The perceptions of people with multiple sclerosis about the NHS provision of physiotherapy services.
Disabil Rehabil. 2013 May 7. [Epub ahead of print]


Tinghög P, Hillert J, Kjeldgård L, et al.
High prevalence of sickness absence and disability pension among multiple sclerosis patients: a nationwide population-based study.
Mult Scler. 2013 May 7. [Epub ahead of print]

Moore P, Harding KE, Clarkson H, et al.
Demographic and clinical factors associated with changes in employment in multiple sclerosis.
Mult Scler. 2013 May 7. [Epub ahead of print]

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