Driving and Dementia

Having a diagnosis of dementia doesn’t necessarily mean you have to stop driving straightaway.  However it does mean telling certain people and possibly taking a driving assessment.  As dementia progresses there will be a time when stopping driving becomes essential.

If you have a driving licence, the law says that you must inform the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) in Great Britain promptly about your diagnosis. Do not assume that your GP or consultant will do this.  You must also tell your car insurance company.

What happens after you contact the DVLA?  The DVLA will request a report from your doctor and might also ask you to take a driving assessment and they will subsequently decide whether you can still drive.  A driving assessment is not like a driving test. It is an overall assessment of the impact that the dementia is having on a person’s driving performance and safety, and it makes some allowances for the bad habits that many drivers get into.  A key part of the assessment is an on-road session with an advanced driving instructor in a dual-braking car (where there is a brake on the passenger’s side as well as on the driver’s side).

Driving and Mild Cognitive Impairment (MCI)

In May 2012, DVLA published guidance about drivers who are diagnosed with Mild Cognitive Impairment (MCI). People with MCI have subtle problems with short-term memory, planning and attention. They do not have dementia, although some may develop dementia over time. MCI can affect a person’s ability to drive. A driver diagnosed with MCI needs to notify DVLA only if their condition affects their ability to drive. The person’s doctor or family members are good judges of this: if either is concerned, then DVLA needs to be told. As with dementia, if notified, DVLA will take up medical reports and make a decision as to someone’s fitness to drive.

Many people with dementia choose to stop driving voluntarily. It’s best to stop if you feel less confident or become confused even on familiar routes.  Having to stop driving can be difficult to adjust to but there are some benefits.  These include feeling less stressed and saving money on insurance and fuel.  Taking control of alternative options, such as getting a free bus pass or finding out about local transport options can help you with the transition, as can talking through how you feel with family and friends. Think about setting up an account with a taxi firm or begin shopping online for groceries. Many people use their Attendance Allowance towards travel, for example, buying a mobility scooter, paying petrol money to people who give them lifts and hiring taxis when public transport is not an option.  See Benefits.

The National Entitlement Card allows people aged 60+ and people with a disability to travel for free on local or Scottish long distance buses. You can apply at your local Post Office or SPT Travel Office at Buchanan Bus Station, Glasgow.

MyBus Rural (East Dunbartonshire) provides services across East Dunbartonshire, you register for the service and call in advance to book your journey. For those needing assistance to access health services SPT Access to Healthcare may be able to help.

Further Reading

Alzheimer Scotland has produced a fact sheet on Dementia and Driving. A personal account of driving and dementia has been written by Dr James McKillop, DUniv., MBE Driving with Dementia – My Experiences.