Driving When You Have Parkinson's Disease Title Graphic

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Driving When You Have
Parkinson's Disease

  • For most people, driving represents freedom, control and independence. Driving enables most people to get to the places they want or need to go. For many people, driving is important economically – some drive as part of their job or to get to and from work.

  • Driving is a complex skill. Our ability to drive safely can be affected by changes in our physical, emotional and mental condition. The goal of this brochure is to help you and your health care professional talk about how Parkinson’s may affect your ability to drive safely.

How can Parkinson’s disease affect
my driving?

  • Parkinson’s disease can cause your arms, hands, or legs to shake – even when you are relaxed. It also can make it harder for you to keep your balance, or start to move when you have been still. If you have Parkinson’s and you try to drive, you may not be able to:

  • react quickly to a road hazard;

  • turn the steering wheel; or

  • use the gas pedal or push down the brake.

Can I still drive with Parkinson’s?

  • Most likely, “Yes,” in the early stages of the disease, and if you take medicines that control your symptoms.

What can I do when Parkinson’s disease affects my driving?

  • Ask your doctor about medicines and surgeries that could help treat your symptoms of Parkinson’s disease. Ask about the affect medicines may have on your continued ability to drive safely.

  • Staying fit and active will help maintain your muscle strength that you need to drive. This will help keep you safely behind the wheel and on the road.

  • Your doctor also can refer you to a center or a driver rehabilitation specialist who can give you on and off-road tests to see if, and how, your Parkinson’s is affecting your driving. The specialist also may offer training to improve your driving skills if your Parkinson’s still allows you to drive safely.

  • Improving your skills could help keep you and others around you safe. To find a driver rehabilitation specialist near you, go to www.aota.org/olderdriver and look up the name of a specialist in your state. You also can call your local hospital and rehabilitation facility to find an occupational therapist who can help with the driving skills assessment and remediation. Depending on where you live, you may need to travel to nearby communities to find these services.

What if I have to cut back or
give up driving?

  • You can keep your independence even if you have to cut back or give up on your driving. It may take planning ahead on your part, but planning will get you to the places you want to go and the people you want to see.

  • Consider:
      • rides with family and friends;

      • taxi cabs;

      • shuttle buses or vans;

      • public buses, trains and subways; and

      • walking.

  • Also, senior centers, and religious and other local service groups often offer transportation services for older adults in your community.

Who can I call for help with transportation?

telephone iconCall the ElderCare Locator at 1-800-677-1116 and ask for your local Office on Aging, or go to their website at www.eldercare.gov.

telephone iconContact your regional transit authority to find out which bus or train to take.

telephone iconCall Easter Seals Project ACTION (Accessible Community Transportation In Our Nation) at 1-800-659-6428 or go to their website at www.easterseals.com/transportation.

Where do I find out more about Parkinson’s?

Your first step is to talk with your health care professional. You also can contact the:

telephone iconAmerican Parkinson Disease Association 1-888-400-2732

telephone iconThe National Parkinson Foundation 1-800-327-4545

telephone iconAmerican Academy of Neurology 1-800-879-1960

telephone iconParkinson’s Disease Foundation 1-800-457-6676

telephone iconNational Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke

You also can get a copy of “Age Page On Older Drivers” from the National Institute on Aging by calling 1-800-222-2225, or by going to their website at www.niapublications.org/engagepages/drivers.asp

Wear your safety belt

Always wear your safety belt when you are driving or riding in a car. Make sure that every person who is riding with you also is buckled up. Wear your safety belt even if your car has air bags.