“Parkinson’s disease is a central nervous system disorder that causes certain cells in your brain to decline over time. This can affect your perception. Parkinson’s can cause dementia.”

A person can be affected by all of these challenges.

Yet it may take many months or years after diagnosis for Parkinson’s to interfere with activities of daily living, such as driving. It’s important to know when driving will become a concern and what you can do once it’s no longer safe to get behind the wheel.

“You should read this to learn how Parkinson’s might affect your driving, how to determine when to stop driving, and how to keep your eyes open.”

“There is no one-size-fits-all answer for how long you can drive with Parkinson’s or how your condition is affecting your driving. Many people can drive for a long time after receiving a diagnosis, while others need to stop.”

It depends on:

  • The person.
  • The progression of the disease.
  • How bad the symptoms are?

Some Parkinson’s symptoms that interfere with safe driving are:

  • uncontrollable shaking in the hands and arms
  • There is lack of coordination.
  • Reaction times were reduced.
  • There are attention deficits.
  • visual impairment
  • The muscles are stiff.
  • Sleeping issues and daytime sleepiness are often related.
  • “Parkinson’s medications can cause dizziness, nausea, and blurred vision.”

It may be riskier to drive if you have more severe symptoms the next day.

Even the earliest stages of Parkinson’s can affect a person’s driving. That said, people who aren’t experiencing cognitive impairments (such as vision changes or visuospatial processing issues) might be able to drive for many years.

A 2018 review of studies found that in 50 studies, people with Parkinson’s were 6 times more likely to fail an on-the-road driving test compared with people who did not have the condition. Those with Parkinson’s were also more than 2 1/2 times as likely to crash in a simulated test.

Here are some tips to stay safe.

  • Eliminate all the things that distract you such as your phone, radio, and eating or drinking.
  • “Don’t drive when you’re tired or have a problem with your medication.”
  • If you have reduced vision, drive during the day.
  • Stick to the routes that have been used before.
  • Try to drive when there is less traffic.
  • Good posture and a cushion for the back.
  • Driving in snow, ice, or heavy rain is not advisable.
  • If you take a defensive driving course, you could get an insurance discount.
  • Stay active and strengthen your muscles.
  • You should stop driving if you sense you might not be driving as safely.

“Some people with early stage conditions can drive for a long time. Those with moderate or severe Parkinson’s may need to stop driving.”

“Parkinson’s can have a big effect on driving, and that effect can increase over time.”

A smaller 2017 study, for instance, found that in 2 years, people with Parkinson’s showed greater cognitive decline and an increase in errors on driving tests compared with the control group.

“There are no guidelines for when a person with Parkinson’s should stop driving, although it is recommended that they be evaluated periodically.”

“Your doctor may suggest you see a specialist for evaluation or to help you deal with Parkinson’s.”

This could include a driving rehabilitation specialist or occupational therapist with special training. Either one can tell you when it is time to stop driving.

Red flags to be aware of

“If you haven’t had your driving evaluated by a specialist, here are some red flags experts say to be aware of.”

  • family concern
  • crashes
  • Chunks on the car.
  • Getting lost.
  • There are attention or memory problems.
  • There are periods of time when you seem off.

Resources that can help with your driving

  • Driving rehabilitation specialists can give on- and off-road tests to check your driving, and some offer training to improve your skills. The American Occupational Therapy Association has a search tool to help you find a qualified specialist near you.

There are other ways to maintain your independence if you stop driving.

You can.

  • Reach out to your family and friends.
  • Either way, walk or bike.
  • Public transportation is available.
  • Use for-hire services such as taxis.
  • You can order groceries, prescriptions, and home supplies through a number of online services.
  • Delivery of takeout and dry cleaning is recommended.
  • Reach out to your local service organizations or church groups that will take you to and from medical appointments.
  • Contact the National Aging and Disability Transportation Center’s ElderCare specialists at 866-983-3222, Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. EST. Or email contact@nadtc.org.
  • Find your local Area Agency on Aging to connect with local services (the Eldercare Locator site has a search tool).
  • Call your local government offices to find out if they offer special rides or services for a reduced fee.

“Parkinson’s disease can affect your vision, motor function, memory, and spatial awareness. All of these effects can affect your driving ability.”

“There is no rule about when someone with Parkinson’s should stop driving. The condition can affect your ability to drive safely, regardless of what stage you are in. Discuss with your healthcare team whether or not you should be evaluated.”

If you have to stop driving, you can do a lot to maintain your independence, such as finding other ways to get around. Agencies on aging and other organizations can help you find services.