Driving with Parkinson’s Disease

Parkinson's Disease (PD) is a physical, mental and emotional disorder that can significantly affect one’s ability to perform normal activities of daily living. Common symptoms are: trembling of the hands, arms, legs, and/or head even when at rest, difficulty initiating movement, legs and/or body, slowed movement and impaired balance. Furthermore, cognitive impairments can arise, such as: difficulties with problem solving, communicating/language, and thinking.

How can Parkinson's Disease affect my driving?

When driving with Parkinson's it can be difficult to:

  • React to a potential road hazard

  • Turn the wheel

  • Change gears

  • Accelerating

  • Braking

Specifically, the resting tremor can in the arms and legs and affects one's ability to operate a car's controls. Rigidity in the limbs can result in sudden/jerky motions when braking, accelerating and/or steering. Slowed movement can impair the ability to quickly react to sudden road hazards.

Some medications may further diminish one’s ability to drive safely by causing side effects such as: drowsiness, blurred vision, confusion and nausea. However, not every person experiences these side effects.

Can I still drive with Parkinson's Disease?

In most cases, yes. In the early stages of PD, symptoms can be quiet easily controlled as long as you're taking your prescribed medication. If you have early-stage PD, you should seek to have an evaluation of your driving skills.

Although, if you pass the evaluation, this doesn't mean you'll be able to drive indefinitely. PD is a degenerative condition meaning it will progressively get worse overtime and the symptoms will eventually become harder to control. Therefore, it's crucial to re-evaluate every 6-12 months.

Tips for Families and Caregivers

If a loved one has been diagnosed with PD, some behaviours they exhibit throughout the day can indicate their ability, or inability, to drive safely. Look out for:

  • Poor coordination

  • Difficulty judging distance and space

  • Not recognising familiar places

  • Inability to handle multiple tasks

  • Decreased ability to solve problems, make decisions, and process information

Even if the evaluation allows eligibility to drive, it’s beneficial to keep monitoring their driving skills in case their condition deteriorates. Looking out for:

  • Driving too slowly

  • Stopping in traffic for no reason

  • Difficulty executing lane changes and turns

  • Getting into near-miss situations, or other accidents

  • Signalling incorrectly

  • Parking improperly

Alternatives

If you or a family member show any potential warning signs, it indicates that its time to stop driving and think of alternative methods of transportation. Some include:

  • Rides from family members/friends

  • Taxi

  • Uber

  • Bus

  • Train

It’s essential that people who are suffering from symptoms of PD to the point their driving is dangerous that they stop driving and consider these options, for their own safety of others too.