Can You Drive With Parkinson’s Disease?

Feb 23, 2024

As Parkinson’s disease progresses, the accompanying symptoms may impact an individual’s ability to drive.

This can be a sensitive and sometimes tricky topic. Since driving is associated with independence, people living with PD may view restrictions to driving as a further narrowing of their freedoms.

Fortunately, many people with Parkinson’s can continue driving safely for years, especially in the early stages of the disease. As the disease progresses, it becomes more important to monitor symptoms, understand changes, and adapt driving habits accordingly.

Here’s how PD impacts the ability to drive and practices you can implement to encourage safe driving habits.

PD Symptoms & Side Effects That Impact Driving

People living with Parkinson’s disease experience a variety of side effects that may impact their ability to drive. These include motor control, cognitive changes, and side effects of medication.

Symptoms such as tremors, stiffness, and bradykinesia (slow movement) can make it challenging to perform the quick, precise movements required for driving.

For instance, tremors may interfere with a person’s ability to maintain a steady grip on the steering wheel. Similarly, stiffness and bradykinesia can hinder the ability to quickly switch between pedals or turn the steering wheel swiftly in response to traffic conditions. These physical limitations make driving more challenging and increase the risk of accidents.

Cognitive changes associated with Parkinson’s disease also play a crucial role in driving safety. PD can affect spatial awareness, reaction time, and decision-making abilities.

People living with Parkinson’s may find it increasingly difficult to judge distances between vehicles, anticipate the actions of other drivers, or react promptly to sudden changes in traffic patterns. PD can also lead to decreased attention and concentration, compromising driving abilities.

Additionally, medication for PD, including levodopa, amantadine, and dopamine agonists and anticholinergics, may have side effects such as drowsiness, dizziness, blurred vision, and confusion. Driving while on these medications can pose a significant safety risk.

Driving Safely With PD

Road from above

Ensuring safety while driving is paramount for individuals living with Parkinson’s disease. Here are several strategies to help maintain safety on the road.

Regular Medical Evaluations

Staying in close contact with a healthcare provider to monitor the progression of symptoms is essential.

Regular check-ups can help in adjusting medications and treatments to optimize the individual’s condition for driving. Neurologists or movement disorder specialists can also assess cognitive functions and motor skills, providing specific recommendations regarding driving.

Driving Assessments

Specialized driving assessments conducted by occupational therapists or certified driving rehabilitation specialists can evaluate a person’s ability to drive safely.

These assessments consider the specific challenges posed by Parkinson’s and offer personalized advice, which might include vehicle modifications, adaptive driving techniques, or recommendations about when to reduce or cease driving activities.

Adapting Driving Habits

Modifying driving habits can significantly enhance safety.

This may involve avoiding driving during peak traffic hours, in bad weather, or at night if visual or cognitive symptoms worsen in these conditions. Planning familiar and less congested routes can also reduce the stress and difficulty of driving.

Vehicle Modifications

Various adaptive equipment and vehicle modifications are available to accommodate a driver’s needs, such as hand controls for those who have difficulty using standard pedals, steering wheel covers for better grip, and swivel seats to aid in getting in and out of the vehicle.

Leveraging Technology

Modern vehicles with advanced safety features, such as automatic braking, lane-keeping assist, and adaptive cruise control, can help compensate for some of the challenges drivers face with Parkinson’s. Using GPS devices for navigation can also reduce cognitive load by providing clear, turn-by-turn directions.

Alternative Transportation Plans

Having a plan for alternative modes of transportation is crucial.

This may include using public transportation, rideshare services, or community resources to help individuals with mobility challenges. Knowing there are reliable alternatives can ease the transition if driving becomes too unsafe.

Educating Friends and Family

It’s essential for friends and family to understand the impact of Parkinson’s on driving. Open discussions about observed changes in driving abilities can encourage proactive steps toward safety without waiting for an incident.

Wear A Medical ID Bracelet

Unfortunately, it is not uncommon for people with Parkinson’s disease to be mistaken for someone under the influence of drugs or alcohol. An easy way to signal your diagnosis is to wear a medical alert necklace/bracelet or keep a medical ID card with you at all times.

This ensures that any tremors, slurred speech, balance issues, or other symptoms aren’t taken out of context. It’s also useful to keep a health app on your phone in case you need to efficiently communicate your diagnosis.

Transportation Alternatives

Smiling on the bus

For individuals living with Parkinson’s disease, the gradual progression of symptoms may necessitate exploring alternatives to driving to maintain independence and mobility.

Fortunately, there are several transportation options available, each offering its own set of advantages.

Public Transportation

Public transportation is often cost-effective and reduces the stress associated with driving.

Many cities offer accessibility features and discounted fares for individuals with disabilities. It’s important to assess whether the individual’s mobility and cognitive functions align with the demands of using public transportation, such as navigating schedules and managing transfers.

Paratransit Services

Many communities offer paratransit services for individuals who cannot use standard public transportation due to a disability.

These services provide door-to-door transportation and are designed to accommodate the specific needs of users, including those with mobility aids. Application and eligibility requirements vary, so contacting local transit authorities for information is recommended.

Rideshare and Taxi Services

Rideshare apps (like Uber and Lyft) and traditional taxi services offer convenient, door-to-door transportation without the need for personal vehicle ownership or maintenance.

These services can be handy for trips to the doctor, grocery shopping, or social events. While more expensive than public transportation, they offer greater flexibility and immediacy.

Community Shuttles/Senior Transportation Services

Some communities, senior centers, or organizations provide shuttle services designed for older adults or individuals with disabilities.

These services often cater to everyday needs, such as medical appointments, shopping trips, or social activities, providing a valuable resource for those with limited mobility.

Volunteer Driver Programs

Non-profit organizations and some healthcare facilities offer volunteer driver programs, where volunteers provide transportation to medical appointments, grocery stores, and other essential destinations. These programs can offer a more personalized service, often with the added benefit of companionship.

Walking or Biking

Girl walking with bike

For those with mild symptoms and good mobility, walking or biking for short distances can be an excellent way to remain active and independent. It’s essential, however, to consider safety and the individual’s ability to navigate traffic and sidewalks safely.

Mobility Scooters or Electric Wheelchairs

For individuals experiencing significant mobility challenges, mobility scooters or electric wheelchairs can offer independent travel over short distances, such as within neighborhoods or shopping malls.

Family and Friends

Relying on family and friends for transportation can be a practical and comforting option, offering social interaction and mobility. It’s important to have open conversations about needs and schedules to coordinate effectively.

When exploring these alternatives, it’s crucial to consider the individual’s specific needs, abilities, and comfort levels and the availability and accessibility of options in their area.

Transitioning from driving to alternative transportation requires adjustment, but with the right support and resources, people living with Parkinson’s disease can continue to lead active and fulfilling lives.

Signs It’s No Longer Safe To Drive


Several signs may indicate it’s no longer safe for you or a loved one to get behind the wheel. These may include:

  • Increased confusion or disorientation
  • Slowed reaction times
  • Increased vision problems
  • Stress & anxiety while driving
  • Near misses or minor accidents
  • Trouble with multitasking
  • Getting lost frequently
  • Getting traffic tickets
  • Exhibiting erratic driving behavior, such as drifting into other lanes

Watch for these signs, which may require more immediate changes to a person’s driving habits.

Be Proactive, Stay Safe

As individuals with Parkinson’s disease and their families navigate changes in symptoms, it’s crucial to have open discussions about driving safety, consider regular evaluations by healthcare professionals, and explore alternative modes of transportation if necessary.

By staying informed and proactive, individuals with Parkinson’s can make adjustments that prioritize safety while maintaining as much independence as possible.


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