Parkinson's Disease and Driving

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Parkinson’s Disease (PD)

In many parts of the world, driving our personal vehicle is how we get to work, shop, socialize, and participate in our communities. Driving requires a complex coordination of our neurological system.

Parkinson’s Disease (PD) is a neurodegenerative disorder that interferes with dopamine-producing neurons. People with PD may experience symptoms related to movement, vision, and cognition. Any of these symptoms may affect driving.

How Does Parkinson’s Disease Affect Driving?

Movement-related symptoms could make getting into and out of a car challenging.

PD may affect a wide range of visual skills. Visual changes in Parkinson’s disease may interfere with:

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Always consult with your doctor

Since driving is complex and potentially puts other roadway users at risk, it is important discuss any concerns with your doctor. Let your doctor know if family members or friends are concerned about your driving (even if you don’t agree) and if you have had accidents or violations. Your doctor may be able to help. They may refer you to rehabilitation professionals and occupational therapists that specializes in driving rehabilitation.

These health care professionals can assess your fitness-to-drive. They may test your vision, cognitive, and physical skills for driving. They may also assess your driving skills with a driving simulator or behind the wheel in a dual controlled vehicle. If appropriate they can provide interventions like vehicle equipment or strategies to help with vision or cognitive challenges.

Parkinson’s Disease

Depth perception and visual-spatial deficits may make it difficult to stop at an appropriate distance behind vehicles or stop lines. These same visual skills are used to align a vehicle in a parking space or stay within the lane.

Driving at twilight or in fog may be challenging for people with decreased contrast sensitivity (Uc et al., 2009). Contrast sensitivity is the ability to distinguish an object from the background.

People with PD may also experience slower glancing eye movements for scanning the roadway. This may cause them to miss landmarks and traffic signs (Uc et al., 2006).

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Uc, E. Y., Rizzo, M., Anderson, S. W., Sparks, J., Rodnitzky, R. L., & Dawson, J. D. (2006). Impaired visual search in drivers with Parkinson’s disease. Ann Neurol, 60(4), 407-413.

Uc, E. Y., Rizzo, M., Anderson, S. W., Dastrup, E., Sparks, J. D., & Dawson, J. D. (2009). Driving under low-contrast visibility conditions in Parkinson’s disease. Neurology, 73, 1103-1110.

Parkinson's Disease and Driving

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