3 April 2014

Concerns about driving with dementia

Nearly half of respondents to a survey in Britain by the Institute of Advanced Motorists are worried about elderly relatives who are still driving with a decline in cognitive abilities, writes Brian Byrne.

In particular they are concerned about them if they have early stages of dementia.

According to the experts, people with dementia may still be able to drive safely for some time after it has been diagnosed, but because of the progressive nature of the disease, there will come a time when they have to give up.

In Britain, drivers must tell the Vehicle Licencing Authority if they have dementia or other condition that affects their driving. If the DVLA allows someone with dementia to continue driving, they will have to have periodic medical assessments.

About 44,000 people in Ireland are currently living with some form of dementia - a number that is expected to reach nearly 104,000 by 2037.  Some 3,500 of these are between the ages of 30-64.

The IAM offers the following list of symptoms that indicate an individual no longer has the skills to drive safely.

* Difficulty judging speed, distance and space;
* Getting lost on familiar roads;
* Straying across lanes or hitting kerbs;
* Confusing the accelerator and brake pedals;
* Making slow or poor decisions;
* Failing to observe road signs and traffic signals;
* Parking inappropriately;
* Becoming angry or confused while driving;
* Causing passengers to have concerns about their driving.