Driving a vehicle is more than just a means of transport from one place to another. Growing up, one of the most attractive things about the whole process was learning how to drive. The feeling of actually taking a seat at the wheel and assuming responsibility played out pretty well in the metaphorical sense of new adulthood and being accountable for yourself.
While growing up, a lot of arguments and emotions center on the need for independence. Driving a car is one of the most liberating experiences, and so it remains for the rest of our lives.
It is undeniable that most of us get tired of driving around all day and experience a lot of stress due to traffic. But it is equally undisputed that the ability to drive and the possession of your own car not only makes your life much easier but also provides you with a sense of spontaneity or an escape which most people cannot afford.
All things said it is established that your car is a very important part of your life. Henceforth, it is extremely important for you to put a lot of thought when it comes to buying one. As for people suffering from arthritis, it is even more essential that they buy the right arthritis-friendly car.
Potential Risks Of Driving With Arthritis
Arthritis is a debilitating disease of the musculoskeletal system that makes movement in particular joints very painful. However, mobility is of utmost importance while driving. In order to drive safely, a person must be able to control all the components in the car and have a perfect sense of their surroundings.
Vision around all four sides of the car is necessary and as is obvious, seat belts should never be considered less than vital for safety while driving. When you have arthritis, your limbs are prone to getting stiff and your joints can lock up, thereby reducing your range of movement greatly.
A painful neck can make it painfully difficult to look back in order to reverse or check out your surroundings if you happen to be lost. A stiff spine can make driving an overall uncomfortable experience and prove to be very incapacitating. Weak and inflexible legs can prove hazardous, with the possibility of your legs locking up and preventing you from hitting the breaks or being able to push down on the clutch in a stick-shift car.
Rigid or frail arms decrease the power in your limbs so that you are unable to maneuver the steering wheel precisely or shift gears quickly. Furthermore, when the process of moving your arms becomes painful, putting the seat belt on seems like an enormously taxing action and you contemplate not putting it on all together. All these possibilities make driving with arthritis a risky process.
A lack of agility is not even the only issue for people driving with arthritis. Small, twisting movements like switching on the ignition with your car keys or opening the car door become increasingly painful, especially in cold weather. Operating the range of knobs for other car controls like using the windshield wipers, defogging the windows or even moving the window up or down becomes too demanding to be done.
Furthermore, your joints become highly sensitive to temperature, so much so that even touching a cold steering wheel hurts and stiffens your fingers and a cold seat causes agonizing pain from your hip through the spine to your shoulders. With a rigid neck, freezing hands and sluggish legs, driving becomes impossible to even contemplate.
Having considered all of this, it is understandable why it is essential to buy a car that can go above and beyond in making the driving experience safe and comfortable. Fortunately advancements in the field of science and technology have led to a variety of new features in cars that allow driving to be an extremely safe and relatively pain free experience for people with arthritis. Now that you are aware of the possible risks of driving with arthritis, let’s look at what you need to keep in mind while buying an arthritis-friendly car.
20 Features To Look For In An Arthritis-Friendly Car
Buying a car is a huge and expensive step. Never buy a car without premeditating about your exact requirements and taking the car out for a run before you seal the purchase. If you are suffering from arthritis, you know the long list of things you need to make sure the new car can help you with. Not only does comfort play a huge part in your selection, but also whatever controls can be added to make your reduced mobility non-problematic in driving the car. Here is a list of features you should look for in your arthritis-friendly car.
- Adjustable seats
You should look for cars with seats that allow you to sit comfortably so you can drive with a good posture. When you have the option of fixing your car seat to support your lumbar spine, driving becomes increasingly easy and enjoyable.
- Soft car seats
Try to find cars that promise you a cozy and pain-free drive with soft car seats. Some people are annoyed by car seats that are so saggy that it is difficult to extricate yourself from them. Hence, you should look for a car seat that suits you best.
- Car seats with a heating system
Nowadays, cars come with seats that heat up to warm you up in cold weather so you can be stress-free about a stiff spine. With a warm seat, not only are you promised luxury, but your joints function better, allowing a free range of movement.
- Remote controlled system
If you have arthritis in your fingers, fine movements like flexing your fingers and twisting your hand to open the car door with keys, can be very painful. Most cars come with a remote system that allows you to open the door with just a push of a button.
Start the car with only a push of a button as opposed to struggling with stiff fingers to twist a key around. Most cars nowadays come with this option.
- Electric windows
Rolling down the window can be a rigorous process for anyone let alone a person with arthritis. Get a car with windows that can be moved up or down with the push of a button instead of agonizingly pushing or pulling away at a lever.
- Large, panoramic rear-view and side-view mirrors
Before purchasing a car, make sure you can adjust all three mirrors to your needs and be able to see clearly without any blind spots. If you feel the need for further adjustments, fret not. Mirror add-ons are available that can be attached to the mirrors to expand your view.
- Backup camera
A backup camera allows you to see behind you while reversing without the need to turn yourself around. Since movement is a prime issue for people with arthritis, these cameras greatly decrease the need for movement while driving by providing you with a clear, level view.
- Automatic transmission
You should preferably go for a car with an automatic gear box as shifting gears can become very difficult with painful limbs. A stick shift requires constant movement of your leg and power from both arms and legs in shifting gears and pressing down on the clutch.
- Power steering
Power steering helps drivers by reducing the amount of power they need to exert to move their steering wheel. The wheel is connected to a hydraulic system that automatically increases your light movements to the power required to move the wheels. Think about it, no more aching arms after driving!
- Buttons for windshield wipers and defogging
Whether you have to turn on the heater or the air conditioner, defog your windshield, spray it with water or use the windshield wiper, you would be required previously to twist your hands, a movement that can be painful for people suffering from arthritis in the small joints, like rheumatoid arthritis. Look for cars that offer all these options just by pushing on some buttons.
- Adjustable steering wheel
In your quest to find the perfect arthritis-friendly car, seek one with an electronically adjustable steering wheel that you can move closer to or farther from you and also up and down. This way you will not have to reach out for the wheel and stretch your back in the process.
- Adjustable pedals
These allow you to move the pedals closer to yourself so you do not have to stretch your legs continuously. If you feel your limbs begin to stiffen just adjust the pedals and bring them closer to you to decrease any strain.
- Easy to use seat belt
Look for a car that has a seat belt that is easy to reach and latches without much force. If you do not come across any that have this feature, buy a seat belt handle that extends towards you and allows you to pull the seat belt towards you easily.
- Large trunk space
If you need to carry a cane or walker with you, make sure your trunk has enough space to fit one inside. You may not always have space to put your cane in your passenger seat and it can get a little excruciating to take your walker out of a car door on a particularly difficult day.
- Automatic parking system
This feature makes parallel parking a piece of cake! You do not have to move around or crane your neck forwards or backwards, the camera will assess if the parking space is big enough and once you hit the okay button, it will automatically reverse into the space. Don’t you just love technology?
- Built in Bluetooth hands-free car kit
A device that allows you to make and receive calls just by pressing a touch screen, it allows you to ask for direction on the phone while driving without you having to hold on to a mobile.
A Global Positioning System device helps you to find your way without the need to look around. Just speak your desired location and it will speak directions to you as you drive. A 911 system notifies someone if you ae in a crash. This can be a benefit to anyone but especially to someone with mobility issues.
- Small car or big car
While smaller cars are easier to maneuver and get in or out of, some people find them constricting. Larger cars offer more space for walkers or groceries but can take a lot of effort to get out of. Find a car that suits you needs and go with it.
- Wheelchair help
If you are buying a car and someone in your family is suffering from arthritis or is in a wheelchair, you can get your car fitted with hand controlled lifts or ramps to help them enter or exit the vehicle.
Extra tips to keep in mind
- Always exercise before driving
Make sure to stretch your muscles before going on a drive. Do some light exercise or walking beforehand, so that your limbs will not be stiffen up while you are driving later on.
- Consider taking up yoga
People suffering from arthritis are encouraged to take yoga classes or take daily walks. These can help you make your neck, spine and limbs flexible and lithe so that long drives are nothing but pleasurable for you.
- Keep your hands warm
Some people find cold steering wheel uncomfortable to the point of being painful. Warm your hands in hot water before driving or consider wearing gloves. Alternatively cover the steering wheel with leather to add a warm padding.
- Prepare beforehand
Planning ahead for your trip will always provide you with confidence. Try printing out directions or see a map before you head out.
Now you know what to look for in your new arthritis-friendly car. Equipped with all these cool features, you and your family can be perfectly assured for your safety and comfort!