THE BLOG

When to Stop Driving

18/09/2014 10:59 BST | Updated 17/11/2014 10:59 GMT

When I was 17, which feels like a life time ago, as a young woman passing my driving test, I saved up and proudly bought my first car. I loved this car, and the freedom it gave me, opening up my world, and in particular my social life. Most of us perceive driving as a right, but it's not, it is a privilege. Growing older, with adult responsibilities, driving is much more an act of getting from A to B, a means of reaching one's work to support the family, and as we have children of our own, we suddenly take on the role of personal mummy or daddy "taxi service". As with everything in life, things turn full circle and before we know it, our children are learning to drive, and excitedly passing their driving tests, just as we did all those years ago.

I was diagnosed with Parkinson's at age 44, and at the beginning as symptoms started to appear and make themselves known to me, I paid close attention to my driving. The last thing I wanted was to be driving when I shouldn't. I had no intention of putting myself in danger, or worse still causing an accident and hurting someone I love or any innocent victim.

Dyskinesia can become a major concern and danger to driving along with the problems of depth perception and one's reactions not being as fast as they once were. Have you been in an accident where you were the driver during the past year? Are there scrapes or dents you hadn't noticed on the car which you cannot explain? Asking yourself these questions without bias, is harsh but crucial. We have to be responsible for our actions no matter what age, facing one's limitations is a tough pill to swallow. Accepting the ramifications of giving up driving and handing over the keys to someone else can feel like an earth-shattering decision, sacrificing one's freedom and shaking one's self-esteem. Giving up driving does not mean you are giving in to Parkinson's. But be rest assured, that those around you will have great respect for your brave and conscious decision.

Finding alternative forms of transportation becomes necessary, and depending on how mobile you are, find out about local bus routes, and taxi services. You may find a neighbour or friend who will be willing to give you a ride when needing to run errands locally. Living in the city, often relinquishing one's car can actually save a great deal of expense, such as maintenance, yearly tests, insurance and high petrol prices. Apart from being relieved of this financial burden, refraining from driving can remove some of the daily stress and anxiety which we all know is better for our mental health, especially with regards to Parkinson's.

If I've struck a sensitive note; please think long and hard. This is not a time to put your pride first, but to think of others and to do the right thing. Trust your instincts and listen to that little inner voice, your conscience; you'll know when to stop driving.

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