01 March 2021 – Getting my Drivers License

Hayden’s on the Road

Before my accident in 2016 I had my learners permit and I had done around 30 hours of driving. Shortly after my accident Vic Roads automatically suspended my license until I was fit to drive again.

When I was at the Royal Talbot Rehabilitation Centre I never thought I would be able to drive again, but thanks to the support from some incredible mentors and Beau Vernon, I soon discovered that it was possible.  

They showed me how they got into and out of their car, how they put their wheelchair in the car and what hand controls they use.  Once I knew it was something I could do I set out on the journey to get my learners back and eventually obtain my full license.

First, I had to learn to transfer into and out of a car.  Being a quadriplegic, I am paralysed from the chest down, so moving in this way was a huge feat.  The first time this took about 1 hour with two people assisting, I was exhausted and wanted to give up, but the next day I tried again, and it took me 45 minutes.  By the time I left rehab I got my transfer time down to about 30 minutes, I still had a long way to go. I trained in my gym every day and worked on regaining function and strength within my body, I knew that this would give me the best chance of achieving my goal and regaining my independence. 

About a year after getting home from rehab I had a driving assessment to see what hand controls I required and to see if I was fit to drive again. The assessor said I was ok to drive and once I found the hand controls, it was time to get myself a car.

I spent about 5-6 months looking for the right car. It had to be a good height to transfer into and I wanted a few specific features like automatic window wipers, automatic head lights, cruise control, reversing senses etc. I finally found the perfect car, a Subaru Impreza which is an absolutely amazing car.   I was able to have many upgraded features installed on the car to make it easier for me to drive thanks to the community fundraising efforts just after my accident. 

Once I had my car, I went to many different shops that specialises in installing hand controls, to talk about what they think would work in my car. I decided on ones that I can accelerate and brake with my right hand and steer with my left hand, these would cost around $11,000. So, I applied to get them funded through the NDIS, once they were approved, I could finally get my car fitted with everything I needed to drive. It took about a month for the hand controls to be installed but when they were done, I was ok to drive (well sort of) I still only had my learners permit and I needed to get 120 hours before I could sit the test for my probationary license.

Over the next couple of years, I did lots of driving with Mum (Sharron Marshall), Dad (Ian Marshall) and Phillip Island local, Chris Dallinger.  Chris has been helping me with my gym training and offered to assist with my driving lessons, I would not have got my hours without him.  I kept practising my transfers into and out of the car and l can now do it on my own in under 10 minutes. This includes getting my chair into the car, by fully disassembling it and placing it on the passenger seat.

After I achieved 120 hours of driving, I decided to have a few extra lessons with Stan Gates from Bass Coast Driving School.  I then had to sit another OT assessment which involved a physical check before the drive and an assessment on the road.  I was lucky enough to find an OT that was also a Vic Roads registered driving assessor, so I could do both at the same time. This meant that if I passed, I could get my probationary license and be able to drive on my own.

It was a 30-minute driving assessment and at the end I found out that I passed. I was so excited but because I had to do the OT assessment as well, that had to be sent into the Vic Roads medical review team to be approved, this took around 30 days. When it was finally approved, I went to a Vic roads service centre to pay for my license, I could finally drive on my own.

Now that I have my license, I am driving myself everywhere, I am also planning to go on a lot of adventures and road trips all around Victoria with my family and friends. A future goal is to convert a van into the ultimate wheelchair friendly camper and travel around Australia.  I hope to continue to inspire people showing them that anything is possible if you set a goal, having a great support network and a community behind you.  

Author: Hayden Marshall - one nerve at a time

My journey of recovery from a spinal cord injury

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