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What medical conditions can affect a senior’s driving ability?

The Phoenix metro area is a lovely place to retire, as the thousands of seniors who live in the Valley of the Sun can tell you. And most of our seniors are terrific, careful drivers. Still, with age, comes the likelihood that drivers could have one or more medical conditions that could reduce their ability to drive safely. What are some of the conditions that can impact seniors’ ability to drive?

  • Dementia: Seniors with this condition could forget the route to places they frequently go, become confused while on the road, mix up the gas and brake pedals, or fail to observe things such as stop signs.
  • Arthritis: This causes pain, stiffness and swelling that could make it difficult to make crucial driving maneuvers, such as spinning the steering wheel or moving the neck to make safe lane changes.
  • Stroke: A stroke can cause weakness or paralysis on one side of the body that can be either temporary or permanent. While some people can recover from a stroke and drive without any impairment, others could have trouble with the general operation of the vehicle, become confused or overwhelmed, or drift across lanes.
  • Parkinson’s disease: This affects muscle movements and the nervous system and can cause the shaking of limbs, slowing movements, or difficulty with balance. A driver’s reaction time can slow down or they may be unable to operate the car properly.

These are just a few of the medical conditions that can affect older drivers, though younger drivers also can be impacted by them. Having one of these conditions doesn’t mean seniors can’t drive, but they should see their doctors and explain symptoms or how they feel when behind the wheel. The doctor could suggest a visit to an occupational therapy driver rehabilitation specialist, who can evaluate the senior’s fitness to drive. If the occupational therapist determines the driver can continue to operate a car, some modifications or rehabilitation sessions might be suggested.

It’s wise for seniors, and their families, to monitor driving abilities as the senior ages. They surely would not want to continue driving if being on the road could cause an accident and endanger another. If your loved one is in a wreck due to another party’s mistake, make sure you find out more about the compensation you are due.


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