Parkinson’s Disease and Driving

Parkinson’s disease affects more aspects of an individual’s life than most people think. One of those is driving a car, which can be either a harmless or hazardous scenario depending on the severity of the disease. Here’s what you and your loved ones need to know. 

Is it Okay to Drive?

The answer is mixed. For some, driving with Parkinson’s disease isn’t an issue if they follow strict guidelines set forth by their primary care physician. Even then, the long-term goal as the disease progresses is to stop driving altogether. 

While the guidelines for driving with this condition change from person to person, there are a few general rules to follow. A car accident attorney familiar with cases involving individuals with Parkinson’s recommends:

  • Sticking to familiar roads
  • Limiting drivetime to short trips
  • Avoiding rush-hour traffic
  • Only driving during the daytime
  • Avoiding poor weather conditions

Seeking Alternatives

For others, driving is simply not an option with this disease. It’s important for these individuals to seek alternative methods of transportation. You could take the bus if you live in the city, for instance. Shuttle vans, taxi cabs, and other forms of public transportation are all highly advised.

When those aren’t an option, it’s recommended that individuals with Parkinson’s seek rides from their family members and friends. Walking is also a viable option for short distances. While losing the independence that comes with driving is difficult, it’s better than causing an accident.

Facing Resistance

Not everyone is ready to lose that level of independence, however. If your loved one fights tooth and nail to keep driving after the doctor has warned against it, there are a number of options you can take to enforce this new rule.

You might try hiding their keys, disabling the car, or contacting the local DMV about the situation. You could also sell their vehicle or move it off the property for the time being. If your situation involves an elderly loved with Parkinson’s who simply refuses to listen, then it may be time to consider an assisted living facility.  

The Dangers Are Real

Driving with Parkinson’s might not seem like a big deal to you or your loved one, but the dangers are real. This disease impairs a person’s cognitive abilities in most cases, leading to poor coordination and difficulty judging distance. 

Disorientation in familiar places, the inability to handle multiple tasks at once, and a decreased ability to process information or problem solve all affect a person’s ability to drive. Determining the severity of these symptoms is difficult, but the following signs are clear to see while the person drives:

  • Extremely slow speeds
  • Stopping for no reason
  • Ignoring traffic signs and signals
  • Getting lost on familiar roads
  • Difficulty with turns
  • Drifting into lanes
  • Forgetting to signal
  • Oblivious to other vehicles
  • Persistent drowsiness
  • Inappropriate parking
  • Fender benders and other accidents become common

These warning signs can give you and the doctor a better indication of how Parkinson’s is affecting your loved one’s ability to operate a vehicle. If these signs become a common occurrence, then it’s probably time for them to stop driving altogether. 

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