A person with dementia will eventually lose the brain functions necessary to make the kind of fast decisions and reactions they need to drive safely. This is because even though there are different types of dementia, all types are reflective of damage to the brain. Also, dementia is progressive so the symptoms will get worse over time. Alzheimer's disease is the most common type of dementia.
How people with dementia’s driving skills are specifically affected depends on how far the dementia has progressed, as well as which parts of the brain are damaged. To drive safely, different parts of the brain all work together in a complex process to:
In addition, all of this has to happen quickly. Many additional problems that are common with dementia make driving unsafe, including:
The changes the person with dementia is experiencing are much more complex than the changes people without dementia experience with age, like problems with their vision and slower reaction time. The person with dementia will eventually:
In addition, some people with dementia don’t realize or remember making unsafe
decisions while driving. Not recognizing their driving difficulties, the
person with dementia may be defensive. For example:
As a result, the person with dementia is not the best person to
assess their own driving ability. You can help by:
Some people with dementia are able to drive safely for some time after diagnosis. However, the longer a person with dementia continues to drive after diagnosis,
the higher their chance of getting into a vehicle crash. The majority of
studies show an increased risk of motor vehicle crashes among people
with dementia. Research indicates that:
Watch these videos of how dementia can affect driving.
Source: U.S. Department of Transportation
Source: P. Moorhouse
See how driving can affect dementia.
Source: National Highway Traffic Safety Administration
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