Driving and Dementia

Driving and Dementia

California physicians are required by law (Health and Safety Code Section 103900) to report people with
certain conditions including those that may impair their driving ability to the DMV. These conditions include:

• Any condition that causes lapses in consciousness, such as seizures or narcolepsy.
• Dementias including Alzheimer Disease and related disorders

The final decision about whether or not a person keeps his or her driver’s license is up to the DMV.

Patients and caregivers may not know when a driver is impaired.

Patients with mild to moderate dementia tend to restrict their own driving. While this is the safe thing to do, it is also a sign that the person may not be safe on the road. Signs of restricted driving include:

• Not driving on highways
• Not driving in the dark
• Not driving in the rain
• Only driving in familiar places

People who continue to drive with self-imposed restrictions have a fivefold increased risk of crashes.
In a study of patients with mild Alzheimer disease, 94% rated themselves as safe, but 60% failed an
on-road driving test.

Caregivers are better at detecting unsafe driving than patients are. However, in the same study, caregivers still overrated patients’ driving performances in nearly every category.

If a diagnosis of dementia is made, it must be reported to the DMV