Driving and Dementia

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  • People with memory disorders are at a greater risk of unsafe driving compared to those of the same age without memory concerns.
  • Changes in vision, hearing, mobility, and reflexes along with taking some medications increase the risk of accidents.
  • Frequent evaluation of risk with driving is essential.
  • Early intervention can help prevent a catastrophe.
  • Most people reach a point in life when driving is no longer safe.
  • It is a civic duty to protect the health and welfare of the driver, other drivers, passengers, pedestrians, and property.


  • Getting lost while driving
  • Passengers are fearful of riding with the driver
  • Not staying in the lane
  • Confusing brake and gas pedals
  • Failing to observe traffic signs and signals
  • Hitting a curb when driving
  • Driving too slowly or speeding
  • Becoming angry or confused when driving


  • Has my confidence surrounding driving decreased?
  • Have I had any fender benders, car scrapes, or accidents?
  • Have I had any traffic citations?
  • Have I gotten lost or disoriented as to where I am when driving?
  • Have I forgotten where I am going?
  • Has my mental processing speed slowed?
  • Has my vision or visual perception changes?
  • Have my movements slowed?


  • Do you have concerns about riding with the driver?
  • Would you let children ride with the person?
  • Do they need a “co-pilot” to assist with driving?
  • Do they have increased anger or anxiety when driving?
  • Are traffic rules obeyed?
  • Is there difficulty seeing other vehicles, objects, or pedestrians?
  • Can the car be parked correctly?
  • Have other instrumental activities of daily living declined such as paying bills or preparing meals?
  • Are mood swings, difficulty problem solving, or impaired decision- making present?


  • Many people are fit to drive provided early safety strategies are put in place.
  • Drive in familiar areas only within a small radius of the home. If a GPS is required, then it is not a familiar area.
  • Drive only during the daytime in good weather conditions.
  • As much as possible make right turns only. If left turns are needed always make them at a traffic light.
  • Avoid highways.
  • Do not accelerate into a line of stopped cars to avoid abrupt stopping.
  • Keep to the speed limit and do not exceed it.
  • Avoid distractions such as pets, phones, and car’s sound system.
  • Evaluate the current vehicle and consider replacing with a model that has advanced safety features such as lane assist and blind spot indicators.


  • Using these strategies can help transition someone from driving to no longer doing so.
  • Some individuals are relieved they no longer have the stress of driving.
  • Loss of driving is associated with feelings of loss of independence, loss of socialization, and low self-esteem. Discuss strategies to maintain independence around driving such as helping to make other arrangements. Create new ways to promote socialization.
  • No longer driving may result in a grief response – anger, denial, bargaining, and depression. Allow the person to express feelings and move to resolution of the grief – acceptance.
  • Offer to drive, allowing the person to relax and enjoy the scenery or avoid the stress of driving in traffic.
  • Schedule family or friends to visit either at home or by taking the person somewhere for a meal or an outing.
  • Use transport services or hire a driver.
  • Use home delivery services and on-line shopping.
  • Use more in-home services.
  • Watch the website video “The Driving Conversation” for more information.
  • If driving fitness is questioned and the driver will not voluntarily stop, a formal driving evaluation can be ordered by the provider.
  • Depending on the outcome, driving privileges may be suspended.
  • Read the document on the website “Driving Evaluation” for more information.


  • If driving is dangerous and must be immediately stopped, critical steps must be undertaken.
  • Disable the vehicle by removing the battery.
  • Remove the car keys with non-working keys or remotes with the battery removed.
  • Remove or sell the car.

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