When an Unexpected Driving Test Causes a Pseudo-flare

Ed Tobias avatar

by Ed Tobias |

Share this article:

Share article via email
banner for

My tough day started when Brenda asked, “Why do you use that scooter?”

Brenda was sitting behind a desk at the Charlotte County Tax Collector’s Office in Florida, where my wife, Laura, and I hoped that transferring our driver’s licenses from Maryland to Florida would be an easy chore.

When I answered, “I have trouble walking,” and Brenda responded, “Just a minute,” and got up to speak with someone, I suspected that this task would not be easy, but it would be a chore.

After a quick consultation with her supervisor, Brenda’s next words sent a shiver up my spine: “You’ll have to take a driving test,” she announced.

What? I’ve been driving since I was 16. In March, I drove 1,016 miles from our summer apartment in Maryland to our winter condo in Southwest Florida, and I planned to make the return trip in 10 days. In the time it took Brenda to say those six words, my plan dissolved into an aspiration.

Once I’d started the application process for a Florida license, there was no turning back. In fact, there would be no turning at all. Brenda had voided my Maryland license and I wouldn’t be driving again until I passed the Florida test. I was in driving limbo.

How hard could a driving test be?

I took my first, and only, driving test on a rainy day under the Brooklyn Bridge in lower Manhattan, when I was a teenager. When I was 21, I drove a New York City cab to make extra cash. In Washington, D.C., I spent decades dodging cars with diplomatic plates trying to navigate traffic circles. Lots of people with multiple sclerosis drive cars. Some even drive motorcycles. I know how to drive and I drive well.

So, why did I feel like a nervous 16-year-old when, before I even started the car, Eric the Examiner asked, “What do you do when you park a car on a hill?” Suddenly, I wasn’t sure that “put the car in park, set the emergency brake, and turn the wheels into the curb” was the right answer. I had visions of our drive back to Maryland disappearing into a Florida swamp.

Things improved as I pulled out of the parking lot. Driving a couple of blocks without traffic and making a few turns, including a three-point turn, were a piece of cake. But then: “Put the car into reverse, assume the proper position, and back up until I tell you to stop,” Eric commanded. Assume the proper position? Huh? Was I supposed to turn around with my arm slung over my seat or use rearview mirrors, as I’d been doing for over 50 years? I seemed to remember that Florida, strangely, wants you to use the turn-and-sling method. I tried to do both.

That’s all, folks

Then, it was back to the office. I didn’t even have to parallel park. I guess they don’t do that much in Florida. After a nervous, 15-minute wait, I received the news that I had a brand-new Florida license. Whew! Laura and I can head back to Maryland in a few days with me at the wheel.

Actually, that’s not all

When we finally got back to our condo, I was whipped. Temperatures over 90 degrees combined with high humidity, the physical exertion of lifting my TravelScoot into and out of our SUV, and the stress of the day knocked me for a loop. I went to bed early and slept until 10 a.m. the next day.

But I woke up with pain in both calves and shooting down the sciatic nerve of my left leg. It was more difficult than usual to get up from a chair, stand, and walk. It was a pseudo-flare caused by the previous day’s multiple MS triggers of heat, exertion, and stress. Unlike an actual flare, or exacerbation, these symptoms disappeared by the end of the day.

I’m doing OK now and am happy to be carrying my well-earned Florida license in my wallet. Next project: changing our car’s license plates. But that will wait until summer is over.

You’re invited to visit my personal blog at www.themswire.com.


Note: Multiple Sclerosis News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Multiple Sclerosis News Today or its parent company, BioNews, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to multiple sclerosis.


Leanne Broughton avatar

Leanne Broughton

I had to renew my licence. I am 61 yrs. I walk with a cane, sometimes a walker so I was worried. I was not asked about the cane but was there any health problems that may effect my driving. So I got my new licence, good for 5 more years. No pseudo relapse though stressed.

Ed Tobias avatar

Ed Tobias

Hi Leanne,

I'm glad to hear they took you at your word about health problems. I was asked the same thing in Maryland a few years ago. I answered "no," an honest answer, and didn't have any problem with the renewal.


Georgina avatar


Well done

Ed Tobias avatar

Ed Tobias

Thanks, Georgina.


Barbara Green avatar

Barbara Green

20 years ago I made the mistake of telling the officious clerk that my leg was fine I just had M.S. Big mistake. I had to get a medical o.k. Then a test 3x for 45 minutes. I have done this every 2years. Sometimes they excuse me. Once I needed an eye test retake. Last year they said “no test til 2024. It is horrible in a state where driving is a crap shoot.

Ed Tobias avatar

Ed Tobias

Hi Barbara,

Wow, my experience was easy compared to yours. Fortunately, the Florida license is good for 8 years. It will expire on my 81st birthday. By then I probably won't be driving much anymore.



Leave a comment

Fill in the required fields to post. Your email address will not be published.

Dancing Doodle

Did you know some of the news and columns on Multiple Sclerosis News Today are recorded and available for listening on SoundCloud? These audio news stories give our readers an alternative option for accessing information important for them.

Listen Here