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Alzheimer’s is a Hindrance to Driving Abilities

by Kamal Salar

Alzheimer’s Disease (AD)’ is the most common form of dementia among older people. It is a brain disorder that seriously affects a person’s ability to carry out daily activities. It is a progressive and fatal brain disease slowly effecting thought, memory and language serious enough to interfere with daily life.

A recent study by researchers at ‘Rhode Island Hospital and Brown University’ finds that people with ‘Alzheimer’s Disease (AD)’ experienced more accidents and performed more poorly on road tests compared to drivers without cognitive impairment. The study is published in the January 23 edition of the journal “Neurology”, the medical journal of the ‘American Academy of Neurology’. This stems out of the fact they show problems with memory, thinking and concentration.

The study included 128 individuals. Out of these individuals, 84 persons were suffering with early AD and 44 age-matched control subjects without cognitive impairments. Drivers with early AD were enrolled in this study and followed every six months over two to three years. While the study does confirm previous reports of potentially hazardous driving in persons with early AD, it also indicates that some individuals with very mild dementia can continue to drive safety for extended periods of time. The study also built the relationship through self-reports, family reports and a standardized road test.

The study clearly showed the decline of driving abilities among the patients with dementia and emphasized on regular follow-up assessments. It recommended a reassessment every six months for those patients diagnosed with very mild dementia. The driving abilities are also affected by increased age and lower education.

The study found that drivers who lagged behind the average education experience within the study group were likely to fail a road test; failure was 10 percent more likely for each year in which they lagged behind the average education experience of 14 years.

A regular driving assessment program might result in premature termination of driving privileges for some persons with dementia however can actually reduce the frequency of motor vehicle accidents in drivers with mild dementia.

To make the regular driving assessment program a success, the clinicians are required to develop suitable and reliable office screening tools. There is also a need of increasing awareness among the driver and caregivers.

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