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Motor Skills & Reaction Time

As we age, many of us find that our reaction time slows, making it harder to manage dangerous driving situations such as another driver pulling out in front of us unexpectedly. Slower reaction times can be caused by diminishing motor skills – a side-effect of common age-related diseases, such as arthritis – and by our decreased ability to concentrate.

The Canadian Medical Association, on the topic of arthritis, other musculoskeletal pain and ankylosis in the organization’s Driver’s Guide, states:

Degenerative or inflammatory arthritis can result in pain, as well as loss of muscle strength, range of motion and function of the involved joints. People with arthritis may have difficulty turning their heads to perform safety checks because of pain and stiffness of the cervical and thoracolumbar spine. Inflammatory arthritis can result in persistent pain and reduced range of movement in multiple joints, including knees, ankles, hips, shoulders, elbows, wrists and joints of the hands.

An individual should be restricted from driving if pain adversely affects his or her ability to drive safely or if he or she lacks range of movement or strength to execute the coordinated activities required. However, most difficulties of this type can be overcome by simple modifications to the vehicle or adjustment of driving technique. If there are concerns, the individual should be required to demonstrate his or her ability to a driver examiner.

Effectively manage dangerous situations on the road:

  • Don’t drive if pain is adversely affecting our ability to react quickly.
  • Don’t drive while distracted and remain focused on the task at hand at all times.
  • Use the interactive driving skills assessment found here if you believe diminished motor skills and reaction times affect your ability to drive safely.

Canadian Medical Association, CMA Driver’s Guide Determining Medical Fitness to Operate Motor Vehicles, 8th Ed, Section 21, Ottawa: Canadian Medical Association, 2012, modified and used with the permission of CMA; recognition to Dr. Cabana. CMA does not assume any responsibility for liability arising from any error in or omission from the use of any information contained in these sections. Permission to photocopy this section should be sought from Access Copyright, One Yonge St, Suite 800, Toronto, ON M5E 1E5, T: (416) 868-1620, E:

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