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Driving With Arthritis In Your Hands?

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If you suffer from arthritic hands, you know that there are moments throughout the day when you really curse this affliction.

One of those moments can easily be while you are driving – or at least trying to drive.

But what you may not know is that there are tools available that can help to make driving easier and less painful for you.

Can You Drive If You Have Arthritis?

Yes, of course you can drive if you suffer with arthritis but of course it depends on several factors.

  • How severe your arthritis is.
  • What joints are affected.
  • How well you are able to manipulate the steering wheel, the shift gear, the peddles, etc.
  • And if your response time is adequate enough to keep you safe on the road (not only for yourself but for others as well)

Having arthritis can make your joints swollen and stiff, which can limit how far you can bend or move your shoulders, hands, head and neck. This can make it harder to grasp or turn the steering wheel, apply the brake and gas pedals, put on your safety belt or look over your shoulder to check your blind spot.

icsw.nhtsa.gov

Driving Assessments

I would recommend that you speak to your physician about getting a driving evaluation by an Occupational Therapist (OT) who specializes in driving skills.

This specially trained OT will be able to help you identify the specific driving skills that your arthritis may be affecting and then give you the recommendations and tools to help you drive safely.

If your physician is not familiar with an OT who can do this you can search for a driving rehabilitation specialist here.

Car Adaptations For Arthritis

There are several adaptations that you can make to your vehicle that can help you if your arthritis is impeding your driving in any way.

Manual Transmissions (Stick Shift)

First – I do want to say that if you have a vehicle with a manual transmission (i.e. stick shift) – that as your arthritis progresses it will only be harder and harder for you to drive that vehicle.

So, if it’s possible – I strongly recommend that you trade in your car for one that has an automatic transmission and as many of the following features as possible:

  • power steering
  • power brakes
  • push button keyless starter
  • keyless entry (to lock and unlock your car doors)
  • 6 way power seat
  • heated seats (especially if you live in colder climates)
  • backup camera (especially if your arthritis is in your neck)
  • power trunk release
  • cruise control
  • built in navigation system

The best type of cars for anyone with arthritis in their hands or elsewhere are ones that have as many of these features as possible.

Steering Wheels

Depending on the severity of the arthritis in your hands – you can choose from any of these products below.

Easy Turn Spinner Knobs – if gripping the steering wheel is difficult because of the arthritis in your hands then using a spinner knob can make it much easier to drive and handle your steering wheel. You can even put one on either side of your steering wheel.

Textured Steering Wheel Covers – gripping a steering wheel that has texture and maybe some bulk can help some arthritis sufferers to better manage driving.

Heated Steering Wheel Covers – if you live in a cold climate – the arthritis in your hands might be more bothersome during the winter. This is where heated steering wheel covers could come in handy to help you drive safer.

Seat Belts

Arthritic hands can make it difficult to handle a seat belt but if you have arthritis in your neck or shoulders – well – that would only exacerbate the task as well.

Rest assured – there are products that you can use to make it easier.

Seat Belt Grabber Handle – this little inexpensive tool is a great product to use if you have trouble managing your seat belt or reaching over to use it.

Seat Belt Buckle Holder – this buckle holder can make it just a bit easier to find and manage seat belt buckles.

Seat Belt Unbuckler – but if you are having trouble unbuckling a seat belt – then this product may be the key to making it just a bit easier.

Car Seat Cushion

If your arthritis is also in your hips and back and you don’t have a car with heated seats – well – you can certainly add one!

A highly rated one on Amazon is the…

HealthMate Velour Heated Seat – this wonderful and fairly inexpensive addition to your car seat can help to make driving more comfortable and safer.

Car Cane Mobility Aid

This wonderful tool is for anyone who has decreased hand strength or hip and back pain or mobility loss due to arthritis.

Stander HandyBar Car Can Plus – It’s a multi use tool which is inexpensive and honestly, I do believe it should be in every person’s vehicle.

Gas Cap Removers

If the arthritis in your hands makes it painful or impossible to turn your car’s gas cap – there is a solution.

Freedom Gas Cap Wrench – another inexpensive and simple tool that you may be able to use to make it possible and/or less painful to deal with your car’s gas cap when it’s time to fill it up.

Gear Shifts With A Button

We recently received an email from a reader asking if there was anything that could make it easier for someone with arthritic hands to manage a car’s gear shifter with a button.

Whether the button is on the side or on top – if you have arthritis in your hands – it may be difficult to press that button to move the gear shift.

I was only able to find one product, a Gearshift Easy Release which seems to possibly do the trick (not sure).

My recommendation was to contact the car’s dealership and/or an auto mechanic to find out if that particular gear shift could be replaced with one that did not have a trigger button.

Can I Get A Blue Badge If I Have Arthritis?

Blue badges are provided to citizens and residents of the United Kingdom, Scotland and Wales if they qualify for a disability status.

Arthritis can be deemed a disability if it impedes your ability to function safely.

The Blue Badge will allow you to park in disabled parking spots which will make it easier for anyone who’s arthritis impedes their mobility.

You can read more about Blue Badge and arthritis at Ageuk.org.

In the USA – the same type of program is called Disabled Permits.

Every state has a different policy regarding handicap parking permits but they all normally begin by asking your physician for the paperwork. Some states will require a doctor’s prescription to qualify.

Check the list at CreakyJoints.org for your state’s resources on handicap parking permits.

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