Driving tests

Learning to drive with dyslexia or reading difficulties

Dyslexia makes it more difficult to learn to drive, but it doesn’t mean that people with dyslexia are bad drivers.

Learner licence

For the learner licence test it is more difficult to absorb written material which is why we created a series of videos to help those with dyslexia and reading difficulties to learn to drive. You can visit our YouTube page here. It has every section of the Road Code questions for cars, motorbikes and heavy vehicles broken down with every question and answer explained.

As the questions are the same as in the real test, when the you arrive at the test centre you will be familiar with the wording of the questions and should find it much easier to answer.

Bear in mind that the actual theory test is a multiple choice exam, so it’s important that you also practice for your learner licence using the questions on our website – click on car, motorbike or heavy vehicle in the menu above.

Literacy and migrant support

If the reading difficulties are literacy-related Literacy Aotearoa has learning centres all over the country, some of which run learner licence courses to help people who struggle with written English, and people for whom English is a second language. Charitable organisations such as Presbyterian Support and local community centres frequently run assistance programs, too.

Practical driving

We recommend that you get a letter from your optician confirming that your eyesight is sufficiently good for a driving licence if you have difficulty reading the letters or numbers out loud.

Having dyslexia should not affect your ability to drive, and we recommend you find a driving instructor that can help teach you the correct methods.

When you have your practical test, ask the examiner to indicate left or right with hand gestures rather than just using left/right verbal instructions, or ask for them to use the exit number on a roundabout.

A driving test isn’t a memory test and you are allowed to ask the examiner to repeat an instruction.

Research by Professor Rod Nicholson from Sheffield University in the UK found that people with dyslexia can sometimes take longer to develop automatic responses in tasks such as driving. This doesn’t not mean that people with dyslexia are bad drivers.

Consider taking the test in an automatic car rather than a manual car to reduce the amount of things to think about.

Difficulties that dyslexia can pose

The following symptoms don’t apply to everyone with dyslexia, but you may experience some of them.

  • Short term and working memory
  • Focusing and dealing with distractions
  • Difficulty identifying right and left
  • Visual distraction and memory
  • Sequencing issues – getting things in the right order
  • Slower processing speed
driver training

Darren is a member of the Institute of Advanced Motorists and the NZ Motoring Writers' Guild

Posted in Advice
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