Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease (CMT) is an inherited neurological condition of the peripheral nervous system, whose network of nerves are responsible for movement and sensation in the arms and legs.

Driving is a complex task that requires different and coordinated movements and quick reactions, with performance affecting the driver’s safety and possibly that of others.

Driving ability and CMT

Many CMT patients are able and allowed to drive. But the privilege of earning a driver’s license depends on the physical abilities of the individual patient. These skills vary among patients, and are affected by the type of CMT a person has.

One clinical study (NCT02357355) assessed the driving abilities of CMT1A patients, testing 16 people with CMT1A — the most common form of this disease — and eight controls using driving simulation scenarios. Preliminary results showed that CMT1A patients had twice the number of simulated vehicle accidents than did controls. CMT patients also had double the rates of lane departures and lane crossings, a difference that was statistically significant. Lane control variability was similar between the two groups, while steering wheel variability and collision rates were higher in CMT patients but did not reach statistical significance.

Legal issues

In the U.K. and the U.S., offices in charge of driving permits or licenses — the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) in the U.K. and the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) in the U.S. — have to be informed about a CMT diagnosis and changes in physical abilities. Insurance companies also have to be notified.

Patients with a CMT diagnosis must note their illness when applying for a license, generally by checking off a box that notes or confirms they have a disability. A doctor will then decide, usually after an examination, whether the person is able to drive.

People with CMT may qualify for a disabled parking permit, allowing them to use parking spaces physically closer to shopping centers, theaters, or the like.

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