What happens if you have a health condition that may hinder your ability to drive? Can you drive if you have arthritis, for example? The answer is yes! Many people with various disabilities have no issues getting around by car if they have the right tools to do so safely.

If you’ve recently developed a new type of disability (such as arthritis) and have to re-teach yourself how to drive based on what you can and cannot do, driving might feel a little intimidating. But how do arthritic conditions affect people behind the wheel, exactly? And does arthritis stop you from driving? Read on to find out all you need to know.

What types of arthritis are there?

In the United States, over 50 million adults deal with arthritis. Arthritis is a condition that is characterized by inflammation and pain in the joints. Although many people have only heard of a few types, there are actually over 100 kinds of arthritis and arthritis-related conditions. That being said, there a few types that are much more common than others.

Osteoarthritis, also referred to as degenerative arthritis, is the most common type and is caused by the breakdown of cartilage within the joints. When this happens, it causes the bones to rub together; in the hands this can lead to joint soreness, stiffness, and a lack of coordination – all of which can affect your ability to drive.

person with arthritis wrist brace
Image by Tom Claes on Unsplash: Can you drive with osteoarthritis?

Rheumatoid arthritis is considered an autoimmune disease. This means that the joints are attacked by the person’s own cells. It can lead to pain, stiffness, and joint deformities. This can also make driving difficult. Gout is another form of arthritis that can severely affect the joints in the hands, but it can also affect the toes, feet, ankles, knees, and wrists. Since you generally need both your feet and hands to drive safely (unless you have a modified vehicle), this type of arthritis can make driving a difficult task.

Can you drive if you have arthritis?

Although arthritis can make driving difficult, it does not make it impossible. It does depend on the severity of the disease, but many people with arthritis can drive just as safely as those without it, as long as they take their limitations into consideration.

Car adaptations for arthritis

One of the best things you can do to be able to drive safely with arthritis is modifying your vehicle. For example, if you experience your arthritis symptoms mainly on one side of your body in your shoulder, and this makes it difficult to use your turning signal, you can have the signal moved to the other side. If your knees are affected, you can modify the seat of your car to swivel in a way that makes getting in or out of your vehicle easier.

gears in automatic car
Image by Jean-Philippe Delberghe on Unsplash: Driving an automatic car can be great for someone with arthritis.

Simple car modifications can go a long way when it comes to driving with arthritis. They will depend on what part of the body is affected. One other easy change is adding a steering knob to your steering wheel. This will allow you to turn your wheel with one hand and with less stress on the joints in your hand or wrist.

Tips for Driving With Arthritis  

Aside from car modifications, there are plenty of things you can do to stay safe on the road while driving with arthritis. These include:

  • Buying an automatic vehicle
  • Always making sure the mirrors are adjusted properly
  • Taking a driving course with someone who can help you learn to drive with arthritis
  • Taking breaks as much as you can if you’re driving for long periods of time
  • Being prepared for days when you won’t be able to drive

Driving with arthritis can be difficult, but the disease does not signal the end of your driving days. Since arthritis typically qualifies you for a disabled parking permit, getting a placard can also be a great help by giving you the freedom to park in more accessible areas.

One last tip is to manage your arthritis as best you can. By knowing your limits and taking care of yourself, you can help to stall the disease’s progression and keep your best driving years ahead of you.

Featured image by Peter Kalonji on Unsplash