Staying safe behind the wheel with Parkinson’s

Having Parkinson’s doesn’t mean you have to stop driving now, but there are things you need to know.

Parkinson’s disease affects the motor skills of the body, including large movements like walking and smaller movements such as getting bills out of your wallet. Parkinson’s can affect your ability to drive a vehicle, although when you should stop driving if you have Parkinson’s depends on the severity of your symptoms.

No one wants to lose the independence and freedom that comes with driving, but you have to consider safety for yourself and your loved ones. One way to know whether it’s safe to drive when you have Parkinson’s is to have a driving assessment.

Return to driving

The Norton Healthcare Driving Assessment Program, a service of Norton Neurosciences & Spine Rehabilitation Center, assists in staying safe and independent while driving.

Driving assessment for people with Parkinson’s

Common symptoms of Parkinson’s that can affect driving include shaking, stiffness, slower response time and issues with balance. “A driving simulator is helpful for people with Parkinson’s, so we can help you stay safe” said Xaviera J. Leak-Cotton, APRN, movement disorders neurology nurse practitioner with Norton Neuroscience Institute. Driving simulators can give your health care team an idea of your driving skills and how your Parkinson’s might be affecting how you drive.

The Virage car simulator at Cressman Neurological Rehabilitation looks at many aspects of driving skill, including:

  • Driver’s ability to control the vehicle
  • Ability to anticipate and manage risk
  • Visual attention and acuity
  • Staying in the correct lane, turning and braking appropriately
  • Driving in a variety of situations, such as rain, snow or heavy traffic

“The good news is that once we understand your strengths and weaknesses, there are things we can do to help you stay safe behind the wheel for as long as possible,” Xaviera said. “That might be adaptations for your vehicle such as panoramic rear and sideview mirrors or occupational therapy to help with flexibility or other physical restrictions.”

 “We can help you find specific resources for transportation if that becomes necessary,” Xaviera said. “The goal is to keep you and everyone else safe.”

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