The ability to drive with Parkinson’s (PD) depends largely on your individual circumstances. Driving with PD tends to be safest in the early stages of the disease. Taking medications that control your symptoms can also improve your driving ability and staying active can help you keep the muscle strength you need to drive.
Some of the symptoms of Parkinson’s that could affect your driving are:
- Episodes of tremor, for example, often begin in a hand or a foot and can affect the ability to operate a car’s controls.
- Rigidity can result in jerky motions while steering.
- Slow movement can interfere with braking in heavy traffic or the ability to react to road hazards quickly.
- Postural instability often results in a stooped posture in which the head is lowered and shoulders are drooped, further reducing drivers’ awareness of their surroundings.
- Fatigue or concentration difficulties
The decision to stop driving is difficult, but in reality, it is one that most of us, regardless of whether we have PD, will have to face at some point in our lives. A good way to know whether you should be driving is to ask yourself: If a loved one were my passenger, would I be risking that person’s safety? Also, be aware of your loved one reaction. If your partner, child or friend has commented on your driving or has hesitation in being your passenger you may like to take these reactions on board.
Here are some tips to stay safe while you’re driving:
- Eliminate distractions such as your phone, the radio, and eating or drinking.
- Don’t drive when you are tired, or your medication is wearing off.
- Drive on familiar routes
- Don’t drive during busy times
- Use good posture and have a lumbar support cushion.
- Avoid driving in bad weather, at night, or when visibility is poor
- Stay active and regularly strengthen the muscles you need to drive safely.
- Consider applying for a disabled permit to allow you to park in larger spaces closer to your location.
Remember that socialisation and staying active will help manage your Parkinson’s symptoms. It’s important that you don’t stay home once you are no longer driving. There are many other options to get you out and about such as:
- Public transport
- Taxis or ride share services
- Family and friends
- Community Transport services