A licence to drive? Neurological illness, loss and disruption

Melissa Stepney (Corresponding Author), Susan Kirkpatrick, Louise Locock, Suman Prinjha, Sara Ryan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Citations (Scopus)
7 Downloads (Pure)


The sense of freedom and independence that being able to drive generates
may be taken for granted by many until it is threatened by illness. Drawing
on the ‘mobility turn’ in social sciences that emphasises the social and
emotional significance of the car (Sheller and Urry 2006; 2000), this paper
presents secondary analysis of narratives of driving and its significance
across four neurological conditions (epilepsy, Parkinson’s disease, transient
ischaemic attack and motor neurone disease). Taking an interactionist
approach we explore how the withdrawal of a driving licence can represent
not just a practical and emotional loss of independence, but also loss of
enjoyment; of a sense and feeling of ‘normal’ adulthood and social
participation; and of an identity (in some cases gendered) of strength and
power. Conversely the ability to keep driving can maintain an unbroken
thread of narrative, for example enabling people with speech difficulties to
feel and look normal behind the wheel. Moments of pleasure and normality
illuminate the importance of examining the micro-strands of disruption illness
can cause.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1186-1199
Number of pages14
JournalSociology of Health & Illness
Issue number7
Early online date22 May 2018
Publication statusPublished - Sep 2018


  • emotions
  • embodiment
  • experience of illness
  • secondary analysis


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