Dementia can affect your memory, concentration, judgement and vision, which can make driving a car more difficult. If you have dementia, regular medical check-ups can help you keep track of your condition and whether or not you’re still safe to drive.
What is dementia?
Dementia is a condition that affects a person’s thinking, behaviour and ability to perform everyday tasks.
How does dementia affect driving ability?
Dementia can make driving unsafe because it affects memory, concentration, judgement and vision.
If you have dementia, this can cause problems for driving, such as:
- getting lost or confused in familiar areas
- forgetting the purpose of the trip
- ignoring traffic lights or ‘stop’ signs
- not seeing vehicles, pedestrians or cyclists
- difficulty parking
- slower reactions
- difficulty using the brake, accelerator or steering wheel.
Starting a conversation about driving
It can be hard to talk about driving with someone who has dementia, as they might see it as their right, and certainly a habit. They might see the loss of the ability to drive as a very big loss.
- Discuss their driving habits, so you can find other transport options to keep them active and socially connected.
- Be positive that their roles in life – for example, a grandparent or partner – will continue without driving.
- Explain how dementia affects them – while their driving record may be safe, this won’t always be the case.
- Talk finances – no more paying for registration, insurance and petrol.
- Encourage regular visits to their doctor and other health professionals to check medication, eyes, diet and general health, to help maintain some independence.
Legal requirements: driving tests and medical clearance
Having dementia doesn’t mean you must stop driving, but to keep driving you will need a medical assessment from your doctor using the Assessing Fitness to Drive National Standards.
Legally, you must notify your state’s road traffic authority about your dementia. If you continue to drive and are a serious risk on the roads, your doctor is legally authorised to notify authorities.
When to stop driving
Your doctor can advise you to stop driving but your state or territory driver licensing authority ultimately makes the decision.
- For people living in NSW or the ACT, the National Roads and Motorists' Association (NRMA) and Alzheimer's Australia NSW have developed a guide for people with dementia, carers, family and friends and health professionals.
- People living in Victoria can visit the Alzheimer's Australia Victoria website for information and resources.
- People living in South Australia can visit the Alzheimer's Australia SA website for information and resources.
- People living in Tasmania can find information on the Transport Tasmania website.
- If you live in another state or territory, check with your local driver licensing authority regarding any specific reporting or licensing requirements.
Last reviewed: December 2015