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Driving With Neuropathy
By William B. Donovan, M.D.

During the holidays many of us will be driving to visit family and friends. For those of us with peripheral neuropathy, this is a concern since peripheral neuropathy can impair our ability to drive safely. We must honestly confront the question, “Does my neuropathy interfere with my ability to control the car?” As with any impairment, it may be necessary to leave the driving to others.

Neuropathy patients frequently have difficulty controlling their lower extremities, not knowing whether the foot is on the gas or on the brake, not being able to feel when the foot touches the pedal or not appreciating how much pressure is being applied. Becoming aware of the problem can help us to be more deliberate in our handling of the controls.

Help for Patients—There are adaptive devices certified driving rehabilitation specialists can recommend. Keeping our muscles in good tone with an exercise program and wearing sensible shoes can also help. Modifying the pedals so that there is adequate separation between the brake and the accelerator may be necessary. However, the installation of hand controls may be required for those of us who are unable to safely operate the foot controls within the limitations of our disability. If we suspect this to be the case, the difficulty should be discussed with our doctor. If the problem is confirmed by examination, our physician can refer us to a driver rehabilitation specialist for evaluation. Listings and information on occupational therapists certified as driver rehabilitation specialists are available at (877)529-1830 or http://www.aded.net/.

Modification of the vehicle may be required. It is important to ensure that any equipment purchased from dealers be certified by NMEDA. For information about mobility equipment dealers, contact The National Mobility Equipment Dealers Association (800) 833-0427, or visit www.nmeda.org/consumers.

Resources for Physicians—Physicians needing help with the evaluation and remediation of driver impairment can refer to Physicians Guide to Assessing Older Drivers, available at www.ama-assn.org/ama/pub/category/10791.html.

Source: Information adapted with permission from San Antonio Medicine. Review the original article at http://www.samedicine.com/0108/RockyRoad.html.

William B. Donovan, M.D. is a board-certified psychiatrist retired from the practice of pain management and is himself a neuropathy patient. He has a degree in public health and is engaged in the investigation of driver safety. He is interested in collecting cases of older driver impairment due to peripheral neuropathy and can be contacted at neuropathy@sbcgloal.net. An annotated bibliography is available on request.

Review a related article, “When Neuropathy Affects Driving” by Mary Beth Meyer, O.T.R., C.D.R.S., Driver Rehabilitation of The Hudson Valley, in the January 2008 issue of Neuropathy News.

 

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