Parkinson’s Disease and Driving

Driving is an essential part of many of our activities of daily living. It is how most of us get to work, school and various appointments; it’s how we travel to and from household and social activities. For many, receiving their driver’s license marked a rite of passage to becoming an adult. Driving gives us independence and freedom.

Driving is a complex task that requires you to be aware at all times and be able to respond quickly to the constantly changing circumstances. Anything that impacts or affects your ability to drive must be taken into serious consideration. This includes Parkinson’s disease, which has physical, mental and emotional symptoms.

Research shows that even healthy people outlive their ability to drive by several years and most often this is due to changes in vision as we age. Most drivers however, do not plan to retire from driving as they age. Many people realize when their driving skills are diminishing, often resulting in decreased confidence on the road. In some cases, the fear of isolation or loss of independence overrides their judgment concerning their driving abilities, resulting in denial of having any problems. This is especially true for those with Parkinson’s. People with Parkinson’s may be additionally fearful that the need to stop driving indicates a progression in their disease.

If you have received a diagnosis of Parkinson’s disease, then you need to know how the disease may affect your driving ability. This will help you to plan well in advance so you can continue to do the things you used to do when you are no longer driving.

Parkinson’s is a very individualized disease. It differs from person to person. Because driving is a complex activity that requires your full attention – physically, mentally and emotionally – your ability to drive safely may be affected in different ways, and at different stages of the disease. Parkinson’s can affect your driving by affecting your mental clarity, focus and ability to multitask. Slowness of movement may impact your reaction time. Changes in your visual perception may impair your ability to judge distances between other cars. Medication effectiveness, vehicle modifications and skills upgrading may only delay the inevitable. Take the time now to make your own plan.

For more information and to view checklists, visit’s-Disease-and-Driving.pdf

To listen to the webinar delivered by Dr. Beth Robertson, visit Parkinson Canada on Youtube