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Johns Hopkins Health Alert

The Challenge of Driving With Arthritis

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The pain and stiffness of arthritis can make it a challenge to drive a car. Knowing what types of features to look for when purchasing a new car is important. In addition, adaptive devices and car modifications after the car purchase can make driving with arthritis safer and more enjoyable. Here's some practical advice from Johns Hopkins.

If you are ready to buy a new car, keep some arthritis-friendly features in mind. These will be more or less important, depending on which joints give you the most trouble. Here are some car features to consider:

  • Keyless entry
  • Running boards and assist handles on sport utility vehicles and vans
  • Adjustable steering wheel (up and down and telescoping)
  • Fully adjustable seats (height, distance from pedals, tilt, and lumbar support)
  • Adjustable pedals
  • Padded steering wheel
  • Easy-to-grasp controls within easy reach
  • Dashboard-mounted and pushbutton ignition switch
  • Seat belts that are easy to reach, lock, and release
  • Cruise control
  • Easy-to-use door handles
  • Easy-to-adjust mirrors and sun visors
  • Easy-to-access trunk or rear door
  • Shorter turning radius for ease in maneuvering

Seat type is often a personal preference in a car. A bench seat, for example, allows more room to adjust your position for comfort than does a bucket seat. Leather seats make it easier to slide in and out of the car. Some people prefer high seats to reduce the need to bend when entering and exiting the car; others find it easier to slip into lower seats.

If you are significantly disabled, it’s important to consult a specialist in driver rehabilitation before you shop for a car. The specialist will assess your abilities and disabilities and offer advice about the types of modifications that may be helpful.

The available modifications include a left-side accelerator and brake pedal or hand controls if you are unable to use your right leg. Other devices include special mirrors, extended gearshift levers, and reduced-effort steering wheels.

Finally, don’t be afraid to discuss your driving difficulties with your physician or to seek the services of a rehabilitation specialist. Some people fear that admitting their physical limitations behind the wheel will ultimately cost them their driver’s license. However, if you are otherwise fit to drive, having the right car with some adaptations should allow you to continue driving and, most important, to continue driving safely.

For more information, contact: Association for Driver Rehabilitation Specialists 711 South Vienna Street Ruston, LA 71270 (800) 290-2344 www.aded.net

Posted in Arthritis on August 25, 2008


Medical Disclaimer: This information is not intended to substitute for the advice of a physician. Click here for additional information: Johns Hopkins Health Alerts Disclaimer


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Health Alerts registered users may post comments and share experiences here at their own discretion. We regret that questions on individual health concerns to the Johns Hopkins editors cannot be answered in this space.

The views expressed here do not constitute medical advice, and do not represent the position of Johns Hopkins Medicine or Remedy Health Media, LLC, which has no responsibility for any comments posted on this site.


A subscription to an automobile club or a cell phone provider should be considered also. Any even minor disability can make the simplist emergencies like a flat tire difficult to handle without assistance.

Posted by: rcorter | August 30, 2008 10:27 AM

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