Driving with dementia is not something that many of us think about until it is happening to us or someone we love. The use of a car is something that many of us simply take for granted, but it’s a very important part of daily life for many people. It gives people independence and freedom but at some point, we will all leave it behind. Unfortunately for some, health conditions can mean that we stop using vehicles much sooner than normally anticipated. Driving with dementia can be dangerous o both you and those around you. It’s a complicated task that involves the use of a number of different manual skills and often requires quick reactions. People driving with dementia are often impaired because the disease can cause memory issues, affect concentration, and can cause issues with vision and judgment, which can stop them from being able to drive in a safe way.
A diagnosis with the health condition does not necessarily mean you’ll need to give up your car right away, but it does mean you’ll need to stop at some point. Driving with dementia is possible in the early stages of the condition because it involves a gradual decline in your health and cognitive abilities. Over time your ability to drive will decline and you’ll need to consider giving it up.
For many people, the process of giving up driving with dementia can be very difficult and confronting. To help maintain your quality of life it’s very important to think about how you can make the transition and how carers or family can contribute to helping you to remain mobile and connected. Here’s a few things you should know about driving with dementia:
By law, you are required to let medical authorities know when you have a condition that can impact on your ability to drive safely. If you have a health condition that prevents you from operating a vehicle in a safe way then you must notify your licensing authority. They will be able to assess whether or not you’re medically fit enough to drive and will decide whether or not you can keep your license. Those who are driving with dementia may be issued with a conditional license if they are still capable of operating a vehicle. These remain valid for no more than a year, after which time medical fitness will need to be reassessed. It also places some restrictions on the holder of the license, such as how far they can drive, what times they can drive and what speed they’re allowed to go.
There can be serious consequences for failing to notify the licensing authority when you have been diagnosed with a condition that impacts your safe operation of a vehicle. If you get into a crash you could be sued and you may not be covered by insurance.
Signs your condition is impacting your ability to drive
There are a number of signs that can indicate that you are no longer able to drive safely, these are some of the warning signs:
- Your vision is impacted – if you’re having trouble seeing things then it may be time to stop operating a vehicle
- Your hearing is impacted – can you hear traffic noises and cars? If you can’t it may be time to give up driving
- Reaction times – are you able to react quickly enough to things on the road?
- Coordination – are you coordinated enough to drive correctly? Do you get your pedals confused or struggle with multi-tasking?
- Alertness – are you alert enough to know what is happening around you at all times?