Skip to main content

Safety in HD


The ability to drive and the freedom and independence associated with driving is one of the most traumatizing skills to be taken away from someone with HD. Since HD is a progressive illness, you have some time to prepare for declines in function and make plans to address alternative transportation options. Start easing an HD patient off driving by being upfront about the evolution of the disease and by proposing solutions such as public transportation. It helps to get into a routine early as these habits can pay big dividends down the road.

It isn’t uncommon to have a signed agreement that will designate a trusted person as responsible for making the decision to end driving privileges if a certain number of warning signs are reached. Some warning signs that it may be time to turn over the car keys include:

  • Confusing the brake and gas pedals.

  • Confusion at exits.

  • Delayed responses to unexpected situations.

  • Driving too slowly or too fast.

  • Getting into a car accident or “near misses.”

  • Getting lost in familiar places.

  • Hitting curbs.

  • Incorrect signaling.

  • Increased agitation or irritation when driving.

  • Moving into a wrong lane.

  • Not anticipating potential dangerous situations.

  • Parking inappropriately.

  • Scrapes or dents on the car, garage, or mailbox.

  • Stopping in traffic for no apparent reason.

  • Ticketed moving violations or warnings.

  • Trouble navigating turns.

Don’t be afraid to fully grieve the loss of the ability to drive with an HD patient—this is a huge lifestyle change that isn’t easily realized unless you’re going through it personally. Remind someone with HD just because they can’t drive a car, doesn’t mean they can’t continue to be in the driver’s seat of their life.

Sometimes, family conversations about driving concerns aren’t enough. Local resources are available to help objectively assess driving safety and competence. Additionally, ask a neurologist for their medical opinion on a family member’s ability to drive for a non-partisan, professional opinion.

Resources to help make this topic and difficult decision more manageable include implementing a driving agreement, starting a driving journal, calling Accessible Raleigh Transportation (ART) at 919-872-7933, and utilizing door-to-door public transport via the TRACS program at 919-872-7933. With proper 48-hour notice, North Carolina Medicaid also offers transportation to medical appointments. Call your local department of Social Services for more information. If you’re unable to find transportation information or options in North Carolina, call the care line at 1-800-662-7030.