Experts estimate that around 52.5 million people in the United States suffer from a form of arthritis, and around 22.7 million of these people state that the condition limits what they can do. For people with arthritis, a car can offer a valuable way to improve mobility, but the condition can make it harder to drive and handle the vehicle. As such, if you're looking for a new car for somebody with arthritis, it's important to choose a make and model that makes life as easy as possible. Here are nine important features to look for.
A good seating position is important for any driver, but an adjustable seat is particularly crucial for somebody with arthritis. Most cars now offer some degree of adjustment, but some models allow you to adjust the seat for height, tilt and lumbar support and multiple other ways. What's more, you should also look for a model that offers power-adjusted seating, as you may find it uncomfortable to use manual controls.
Keyless ignition is a convenient feature that means you can start the car without having to manually turn a key. Manufacturers often promote this feature for convenience and safety (you can start the car more quickly if you're in a hurry, for example), but it's also a great tool for people whose fingers may struggle to turn a manual key.
For people with severe arthritis, it's sometimes difficult to get in or out of a car, especially if you need to move heavy, unwieldy doors. So look for lightweight doors that are less likely to cause discomfort for people with arthritic symptoms. What's more, lightweight cars will also offer better gas mileage, as the reduced weight means the engine doesn't need to work so hard. These savings are worth considering if you must cope with a limited income and/or disability benefits.
Just as you may need to adjust the driver or passenger's seat, you may also need to adjust the car's pedals. If the pedals are too far away from your feet, you may have to stretch your legs, which isn't always easy for somebody with arthritis, especially on longer journeys. You could also talk to a dealer about fitting optional pedal extensions for more severe arthritis sufferers.
Voice-activated controls can make life easier for people with arthritis when using different systems within the car. Many manufacturers have now installed these systems, which help drivers avoid manual controls that may cause pain and/or distract you on the road. Common voice controls to look for include entertainment systems, temperature controls and GPS navigation systems.
Adjustable steering wheel
The height of the steering wheel makes a big difference to your comfort and safety. Although the steering wheel should always be at least 25 cm from your face (to avoid injury if the airbag activates), you also need to make sure the wheel is close enough to avoid painful stretching movements that can hurt your spine. Look for a car with an electronically adjustable steering wheel that will avoid the need for painful, manual adjustments.
Even a lot of drivers without arthritis enjoy the benefits of a power steering system, which cuts down the amount of force you need to exert to turn the steering wheel. Nonetheless, for somebody with arthritis, this feature is essential. Power steering uses a hydraulic system that increases power to the wheel to save your arms and joints that may suffer when you turn the wheel manually.
Automatic gearboxes are relatively common in the United States compared to other countries, but this type of transmission is essential for somebody with arthritis. The repetitive movements of a gear change can cause serious pain for somebody with the condition, but an automatic version can avoid the problem entirely.
Heated car seats
Heat therapy is an important treatment method for many people with arthritis. Heating pads, gels, creams and packs can all ease the pain of your symptoms, so it's a good idea to drive a car that offers heated seats. Warm joints tend to function better than cold ones, making it easier to drive the vehicle. What's more, the added heat is also good in the colder months when the low temperature may exacerbate your symptoms.
People with arthritis need special features from their cars. Talk to a dealer in your area, such as a Honda dealer, for more information and advice.