Aging Well

Can You Drive Safely with Arthritis

Although you might think of poor vision as the most common factor in seniors’ impaired driving ability, arthritis can also be an obstacle.

According to NIH SeniorHealth, a division of the National Institutes of Health, arthritis can make joints swollen and stiff, thereby limiting movement of the shoulders, hands, head or neck. That can make it hard to turn the steering wheel, or even to grasp it. Additionally, people with arthritis may have trouble applying the brake and the gas pedals, put in a seatbelt or get in and out of a car.

If you have arthritis, the SeniorHealth experts say, ask your healthcare team for advice on driving. Treatment for arthritis might make it easier

You may also want to take a test to evaluate driving skills. There are a number of different tests. You can simply answer questions about your driving skills through an online or paper questionnaire. The SeniorHealth experts say there are other tests that assess mental and physical skills such as leg strength, neck flexibility, vision and memory. In addition to giving you an explanation of your score, the test administrators can offer tips for making driving more safely.

Whichever type of test you take, pay attention to the score. (Some tests have many scores, one for each type of driving skill.) It will tell you what your driving strengths and weaknesses are and what skills you should work on. The tests also offer tips for making driving safer.

You might also want to take a road test, in which someone accompanies you while you drive. Your passenger will look for signs of dangerous driving, such as whether you buckle your seatbelt, have trouble with the gas or brake pedal. He or she will also look at how you handle traffic on busy streets, Another kind of driving test is a road test, in which someone rides with you while you drive. The person conducting the road test will look for signs of dangerous driving. Did you buckle your seatbelt? Did you have trouble with the gas or brake pedal? According to the SeniorHealth experts, the evaluator will also see how you handle traffic on busy streets as well as situations such as changing lanes, turning and stopping.

Click here for a list of testing resources and advice on driving safely.

Another option is seeing a driving rehabilitation specialist, who can evaluate your driving and possibly recommend adaptive measures for your vehicle.

You’ll find rehabilitation centers for each state listed from the Association for Driver Rehabilitation Specialists. Their number is 800-290-2344; click here for the ADED website.  The American Occupational Therapy Association, Inc. (AOTA) can help as well; their numbers are 301-652-2682 TDD: 800-377-8555.  Click here to visit their website.

For more information on other health-related issues for seniors from NIH SeniorHealth, click here.


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