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 having 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 w ith Parkinson's?

  • Most likely, "Yes," in the early stages of the disease, and if you rake 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 fir 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 rests 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 help get you to the places you need to go and to 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?

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

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

Call Easter Seals Project ACTION (Accessible Community Transportation In Our Nation) at 1-800-659-6428 or go to their website at www.projectaction.org.

Where do I find out more about Parkinson's?

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

American Parkinson Disease Association
1-888-400-2732

The National Parkinson Foundation
1-800-327-4545

American Academy of Neurology
1-800-879-1960

Parkinson's Disease Foundation
1-800-457-6676

National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke
1-800-352-9424

Healthfinder

You also can get a copy of the "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.nia.nih.gov/health/

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.

This information was brought to you by The US Department of Transportation, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration