Driving. It’s an everyday activity we take for granted, and one more piece of our independence that Parkinson’s disease may eventually take from us.
Driving is a complex task that becomes increasingly difficult as Parkinson’s progresses. However, many people with young onset Parkinson’s hope to continue driving for years without difficulty.
If you find yourself questioning your driving skills, there are ways to evaluate the situation. The Association for Driver Rehabilitation Specialists seeks to promote “excellence in the field of driver rehabilitation in support of safe, independent, mobility.” It provides driver rehabilitation specialists to help people of all ages and abilities explore transportation options.
In my mind, my driving skills weren’t an issue. But certain situations triggered anxiety and began to concern me. I started losing confidence in my driving. So, I decided to try an online self-rating form from AAA. Granted, it was for seniors 65 and older, but I decided Parkinson’s qualified me to use it, too.
My score was a “Go!” This means I am a safe driver.
Despite that encouraging score, I decided it was time to start evaluating new cars. My current car is great, but it doesn’t have driver-assist safety features like newer cars.
The search for a new car
I made a list of must-have features and set out to find a car. Armed with my checklist, which included the need to accommodate a 5-foot driver, I started my quest for the perfect car. I visited almost every dealer in the area and sat in various cars. I literally just sat in them.
I immediately eliminated a car if I couldn’t completely see its hood. This requirement eliminated almost all of them. Some sales departments appreciated my approach, while others were annoyed by it. However, I didn’t feel the need to “just give it a try” if I couldn’t see the hood of the car, which meant the road was completely out of the picture.
Another requirement many sales departments didn’t understand was power seats. I explained that power seats are essential for me because I have Parkinson’s, and my left side is my dominant side. Hand-pumping a manual seat will make me late for everything.
This usually was followed by a look of disbelief, to which I responded, “Yes, I have Parkinson’s, and no, I am not going to just give it a try.” On to the next.
My must-have list is practical, except maybe one item: It must be a cute car. I have driven a practical “mom car” for the past 20 years.
Ultimately, the most important features are those that provide me extra help for safety. Driver-assist packages do not take the place of a safe driver. But they can help the “Go!” driver to continue to be a confident and safe driver.
Update: I got a car! It’s a cute, “new-to-me” Volvo XC40.
Note: Parkinson’s News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or another qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Parkinson’s News Today or its parent company, BioNews Services, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to Parkinson’s disease.
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