Driving Can Be Challenging for People With Arthritis
Being able to drive is something most adults don't think twice about. It's a privilege that some might argue is taken for granted. But, think for a moment about all of the movements required of safe driving.
To drive, you have to get in and out of the car, reach the controls, turn the ignition key, grasp the steering wheel, move your feet to apply the brake and gas pedals, turn your head to look in the mirrors and watch the flow of traffic -- not to mention be able to react quickly. If you have arthritis, some or all of those movements may be painful and your range of motion can be limited.
Many people with arthritis have no problem driving. It largely depends on which joints are affected by arthritis. The hardest part for you may be admitting that driving has become difficult. This is no time to go into denial -- your safety and the safety of everyone else on the road is at stake.
Identify Your Problem
To find a solution, you really need to think about what aspect of driving is most difficult for you. What movements are difficult, if not impossible? Is it hard to get in, get out, turn your head, reach?
What you need to realize is that there is more than one way to drive a car. That sounds like an odd statement, doesn't it? Here's what I mean. People typically don't think about the modifications and adaptations that can make driving easier. Even people who could benefit greatly from the modifications and adaptations don't think about it -- perhaps because they are unaware of what's available. You should learn what is available and see if you can improve your driving situation.
Modifications for Your Car
Whether you are buying a new car or modifying a car you already own, consider the following features that may help you overcome specific physical limitations.
- assist handles above the door to help you get in
- keyless entry for less stress on your hand and wrist
- adjustable steering wheel for maximum comfort on your joints
- padded steering wheel to improve your grip
- push-button ignition to eliminate the strain of key-turning motion
- easily accessible seat belts to prevent overextending your shoulders
- controls, door handles, visors -- all easily accessible
- firm bench seats for comfort and support
- leather seats make it easier to slide in
- beaded seat cover can make sliding in and out easier
- electric adjustable 6-way seat for the driver
- a simple trash bag on the seat can help you slide in
A left-side accelerator and brake is another available modification. Hand controls are also a possibility. There are also specially designed mirrors, and gearshifts with extended handles.
Consult a Driver Rehabilitation Specialist
Talk to your doctor if driving has become difficult for you. Your doctor can refer you to you to a rehabilitation specialist who can assess your driving problems. Training programs can help you learn how to use the adaptive equipment that can be installed on your car. Find a driver specialist from the American Occupational Therapy Association. With their help, when you are on the road, safe driving will be assured.
Driving When You Have Arthritis.NHTSA. March 2004.
The Challenge of Driving With Arthritis. Johns Hopkins. August 25, 2008.
Take a Test Drive. Arthritis Today Magazine. 9/28/2007.
How to Get In and Out of a Car. Arthritis Foundation. Accessed 06/07/2007.