Tips for navigating a city in your Motability vehicle
Driving in a busy city can be challenging and daunting for even the most experienced motorist. However, navigating your way around built-up areas doesn’t need to be stressful, in fact, it is a great way to discover new places.
Motorists with a disability need to consider extra factors before setting off on their journey, including appropriate car parking spaces and the distance from shops and amenities. For this article, we spoke to bloggers who use a Motability vehicle and asked them for their top tips on how to prepare for a city drive as well as advice on manoeuvring their way around congested areas.
What is the Motability Scheme?
The Motability Scheme lets people in receipt of the Higher Rate Mobility Component of Disability Living Allowance (HMRC DLA), the Enhanced Rate of the Mobility Component of Personal Independence Payment (ERMC PIP), the War Pensioners' Mobility Supplement (WPMS) or the Armed Forces Independence Payment (AFIP), to use their mobility allowance to lease a car, scooter, powered wheelchair or Wheelchair Accessible Vehicle (WAV).
What are the benefits of the Motability Scheme?
For the entire three years of your Motability Scheme lease, your vehicle is covered for servicing and maintenance, insurance cover, breakdown assistance and a range of modifications to suit specific needs is available.
Make sure your vehicle is ready
If you are about to go on a long journey it is important to do some routine checks on your vehicle before setting off. Basic car maintenance includes making sure your fuel, oil and windscreen wash are topped up and your tyres are at their optimum pressure.
Don’t wait until the fuel light comes on before topping up, especially if you’re driving in an unfamiliar area. Stopping by a petrol station before embarking on your city journey is wise as Jo from The Knight Tribe suggests: “My top tip for city driving is to be organised, I always fill my car up the night before a long journey so that I can avoid delay and get straight on my way.”
Jo, who is mum to three children, told us why the Motability Scheme has been so valuable to their family: “My mobility car is for my son who has cerebral palsy. It's great to know that we can rely on our mobility car and not worry about it breaking down and if we ever did then we know we wouldn't have the added stress of paying for the repairs.”
Research parking beforehand
To avoid moments of stress, especially when you aren’t local to the area, figure out where you plan to park your car as well as how to get to designated car parking areas before setting off.
Tina writes for Mother Geek and told us that she researches accessible multi-storey carparks before leaving home. She explains that her son was diagnosed with autism and how he struggles with busy streets: “For us, it’s worth paying a few pounds to avoid the risk of him darting out into the road while I’m unlocking the car or loading the boot.”
We also asked Tina how a Motability vehicle has changed her family’s life: “My son has profound learning disabilities and challenging behaviour. Before we had our Motability car, it was almost impossible to get out and about as a family. Public transport was too overwhelming for my son, and our old car was so small, he could grab me while I was driving. Now we have a large Motability car, so our son is happy in the back, while I can drive safely, knowing he can’t reach me.”
Researching where you will park also means you can plan how far and how accessible it is to get to the shops or restaurants for example.
Carrie-Ann Lightley told us that driving in a city can be challenging: “How will you know where you can park when you get there, will there be Blue Badge spaces, will you have to pay?” are all questions which need to be considered.
To avoid unnecessary stress, Carrie-Ann uses websites and apps to find information about accessible parking: “My favourite is AccessAble.co.uk, I use the website to plan journeys, and there's a free app so I can check information on the go if plans change.”
Carrie-Ann went on to explain a little bit about her Motability Scheme experience: “I have Cerebral Palsy and use a wheelchair. My impairment means that driving would be really challenging for me, so my husband drives my Motability car. I’m a travel blogger and most weekends we drive up and down the UK reviewing accessible properties. Our car means that we can do this easily and comfortably, without worrying about extra costs if something goes wrong. We often bring our dog along for the journey and it gives real peace of mind to know that I have the perfect vehicle for my accessibility needs.”
Know your parking rights if you hold a Blue Badge
A Blue Badge is designed to help motorists with disabilities park closer to their destination.
Concessions exist for Blue Badge holders, mostly where road markings prohibit or restrict parking for other road users but be aware that not all parking is free of charge. If correctly displayed, Blue Badge holders can park in a variety of places including single yellow lines and on double yellow lines, however, time restrictions can apply.
Jen from Just Average Jen told us some car parking tips which she uses when driving in a city: “Remember if you have a Blue Badge to consider parking on suitable double yellow lines to ensure you are close to your destination. Always check car park signs and take a photo of them on your mobile in case of any problems. Some car parks only allow free disabled parking in designated spaces, whereas others may allow it anywhere, and having a photo of the sign helps if you get a fine you were not expecting.”
Jen also explained why the Motability Scheme has worked well for her family’s needs: “My son (now aged 13) has autism along with some physical difficulties. A Motability car has meant we can go out places as a family without worry about breakdowns. I love the Motability Scheme as we never have to pay for car repairs and always have a suitable car. My son needs a large car as he struggles with coordination to climb in a car which is low down, so this gives us flexibility.”
Anne from Raisie Bay also makes sure she knows where she can park with her Blue Badge displayed: “I also need extra space to get my wheelchair out so I avoid really busy car parks. I tend to avoid parking on steep hills too, so there is a lot to factor in. I have a badge in my back window to say that I'm a disabled driver so people know I may need more time and space. Not that I do much of the driving now.”
Anne lives with a rare condition called Stiff Person Syndrome and her daughter was diagnosed with Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome. She told us that the Motability Scheme has had a profound impact on their lives: “We have had our Motability car for three years now and it's been life-changing. My condition took away my ability to walk very far, if at all if the surface isn't flat. So, I use a wheelchair all the time and my daughter can't walk very far without pain. Without a car, we would be mostly stranded because public transport is too much of a hassle. A Motability car can be adapted, otherwise, I wouldn't be able to drive at all. It also means we don't have to pay for insurance and road tax so it works out cheaper than buying our own car.”
If you hold a Blue Badge you can apply for exemption from the congestion charges in London by paying a £10 administration fee, which could come in handy if you are planning a weekend city getaway in your Ford Motability car.
Be mindful of hazards
Undoubtedly there will be more hazards in built-up areas, so it is worth being extra cautious when driving in a city. There will be more congestion, road works, and pedestrians to take into consideration, so staying alert is important.
Make sure you are always checking your mirrors, particularly for cyclists and motorbikes and be aware of road sizes as Amanda from I’m Amanda explains: “Some old city roads are a lot narrower and have higher kerbs etc. It’s important to know the width of your car and how to pull in the wing mirrors if necessary.”
Amanda is blind in one eye with a severe diabetic retinopathy in the other. She had a double transplant three years ago, and even though her life and mobility needs have significantly changed in the last few years, the fact that she qualifies for a vehicle via the Motability Scheme has made a huge difference to her life: “It allows me the freedom to go where I want, when I want without the concerns of normal vehicle ownership. The insurance for one; when I can’t drive having another person named on the policy allows me to still get out and about.
“The breakdown cover reduces the stress and worry when going on long journeys and the included regular servicing and maintenance makes me trust the car more and I definitely feel safer in it. Choosing a new car can be a minefield and I’ve found that the Motability advisors are a great source of information when trying to choose the right vehicle. Each time they have helped me choose a car I like that’s comfortable and safe to drive. I also know that if anything changes in my mobility needs, they can organise any modifications that are needed.”
While it is not possible to predict congestion in built-up areas you can do plenty of pre-journey preparation, so whether you want to spend a day out or embark on a weekend escape, being able to confidently navigate your way around a city is important.
Foray Motor Group is a Premier Motability Partner and we understand that selecting the right Motability car is an important decision. Our experts are available to answer your questions and provide guidance so you can choose the perfect vehicle for your needs.