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Friday, December 08, 2006

Parkinson Disease Found to Cause Errors on Driving Test

New Study Shows Parkinson Drivers Are More Prone to Making Driving Mistakes When Distracted

According to a study published in the November 28, 2006, issue of Neurology, the scientific journal of the American Academy of Neurology, drivers who suffer from Parkinson disease were more likely to make more safety mistakes during a driving test than drivers with no neurological disorders.

The study was based on an on-road driving test of 71 drivers with mild-to-moderate Parkinson disease and 147 drivers of similar age with no neurological disorders. While driving, the participants were distracted by verbal tasks similar to talking with a passenger or talking on a cell phone while driving.

The study found that 28 percent of the participants with Parkinson disease made more driving safety mistakes while distracted than they did when they were not distracted, compared to 16 percent of those who did not have Parkinson disease who made more driving safety mistakes than they did when not distracted. Besides making more safety mistakes and having poorer ability to control their speed and steering, those with Parkinson disease also did worse on tests of memory, vision and balance and the ability to switch attention between competing tasks, and were more prone to having daytime sleepiness.

"The abilities of the people with Parkinson disease varied greatly, which in some ways is not surprising because this disease affects people very differently," said Ergun Uc, MD, neurologist and principal investigator of the University of Iowa and the Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Iowa City. "Clearly, Parkinson disease can affect the ability to drive, and that effect grows as the disease progresses. People with Parkinson disease should be aware of this potential decline in driving ability and their family and friends should also monitor it and then recheck periodically."

Uc pointed out that the lesser known aspects of Parkinson disease, such as effects on mental functioning, vision and sleep, had a greater effect on driving ability than the well-known motor problems that the disease causes, such as tremors and difficulty with movement.

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