Driving with Arthritis
Arthritis can pose numerous challenges in daily life, driving included. However, the onset of arthritis doesn’t necessarily mean the end of your freedom on the roads.
Impact on driving ability
With an understanding of the right techniques, necessary adaptations and specific regulations, driving with arthritis can be a manageable, safe and comfortable activity.
Arthritis can impact your ability to drive in several ways. Pain, swelling and stiffness in your joints, particularly in your hands, wrists, knees or hips, can limit your mobility and strength. These symptoms can influence your capability to handle the vehicle, react promptly or firmly grip the steering wheel. Recognising and overcoming these issues is vital for safe and comfortable driving.
The first important step when driving with arthritis is gaining a solid understanding of the DVLA regulations (DVA in Northern Ireland).
According to these regulations, if arthritis affects your driving capabilities, you are obliged to inform the agency. This includes conditions like rheumatoid arthritis that could potentially influence your safe operation of a vehicle.
It’s common to worry that disclosing your arthritis to the DVLA or DVA may lead to loss of your licence. However, this is usually not the case. More often, the DVLA seeks the opinion of a doctor, and it’s rare for a licence to be taken away purely due to arthritis. Instead, you may be advised to make certain modifications to your vehicle or be recommended to undertake a driving assessment.
Maintaining comfort is critical when you are driving with arthritis. It’s essential to take regular rest breaks and stretch to prevent stiffness and discomfort from setting in. Try to keep your drives as short as possible and organise longer trips with plenty of rest stops in between.
The design of your vehicle can also greatly affect your comfort. Cars that have an automatic transmission, power steering and adjustable seats with good back support can help to ensure maximum comfort. Additionally, during colder months, heated seats can help alleviate joint pain.
Swivel seats and transfer plates can be very helpful when getting in and out of your car as they can reduce the need for twisting your body. Lumbar rolls and wedge cushions can also provide much-needed support while driving.
The advent of technology has made life significantly easier for those living with arthritis, and this extends to driving aids. These tools are specifically designed to make the operation of your vehicle more comfortable and safer.
Remote control devices can be installed to allow you to operate your vehicle’s secondary functions such as the indicators, horn, headlights and wiper, all from one device. This is ideal if reaching for these functions are usually uncomfortable or strenuous.
If you require more extensive adaptations, hand controls for acceleration and braking could be the way to go. These devices eliminate the use of your legs and feet. Panoramic mirrors can also help reduce the need for extensive twisting and turning to get a clear view of your blind spots.
Living with arthritis shouldn’t mean losing the ability to drive. With the correct knowledge, adjustments and care, driving with arthritis or rheumatoid arthritis can remain a part of your everyday life. Always keep in touch with your healthcare provider to track your symptoms and adjust your driving habits as required.
By combining well-thought-out planning and effective driving aids, you can maintain the sense of independence and enjoy convenience that driving offers, even while managing arthritis.
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