Driving with PD
Driving is a complex activity where all of our attention is needed physically, mentally, and emotionally. If you have Parkinson’s disease your ability to drive safely may be affected due to problems with balance, perception, mental clarity and tremor etc. However, for many, driving is the only way to get to and from vital places such as the grocery store, doctor’s appointments, work and the pharmacy (to name a few). Therefore, it is not uncommon for those with Parkinson’s disease to worry about how they will accomplish daily tasks of living if they are deemed unsafe to drive by a medical professional like a neurologist. If you or someone you know is facing driving challenges the National Parkinson Foundation is here to assist. In fact, the following are a few tips to help you take control of your transportation needs with PD:
If you have to reduce your driving due to PD:
- Consider taking public transportation such as a bus, subway or train.
- Often times there is a reduced fee for bus passes for the elderly and people with disabilities. Call your local public transportation office to find out more.
- Remember that besides the symptoms of PD, many PD medications can reduce your ability to drive safely. For example common medications - including carbidopa/levodopa (Sinemet), amantadine, dopamine agonists and anticholinergics - may produce side effects such as sleepiness, dizziness, blurred vision and confusion.
- Anticholinergics may also cause dangerous side effects such as confusion and sedation along with memory impairment.
- However, not every patient experience these side effects and they may be decreased with simple adjustments in dosage. You should note any changes and report these to your physician.
- If you are not sure if you can safely drive with your PD there are assessments you can take.
- One assessment can be done through your local DMV. You can contact your local DMV by phone or online by using the search terms “DMV” and the state you live in.
- Your doctor may also recommend you get assessed by a Driving Rehabilitation Specialist (DRS). To find a DRS near you, call ADED at (800) 290-2344 or check the directory. You can also inquire at hospitals, driving schools, rehabilitation facilities and state motor vehicle departments in your area.
- If you can afford to, you can also call a taxicab.
- You might also ask family and friends to transport you to where you need to go.
- Sometimes there are special shuttle/van services for people with disabilities. Check with your local city/town government.
- If you belong to a religious organization, such as a church or synagogue, they may have a transportation committee of volunteers who drive community members to different destinations. Call your local religious organization and find out.
- Your local community center may also provide transportation services.
- Call Easter Seals Project ACTION (Accessible Community Transportation In Our Nation) at 1-800-659-6428.
- Watch this video produced by one of our Centers of Excellence, Beth Israel Deaconness Medical Center in Boston, about the DriveWise program.
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Medical content reviewed by: Nina Browner, MD—Medical Director of the NPF Center of Excellence at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in North Carolina and by Fernando Pagan, MD—Medical Director of the NPF Center of Excellence at Georgetown University Hospital in Washington, D.C.