Dementia can affect your memory, concentration, judgement and vision, which makes driving a car more difficult. If you have dementia, regular medical check-ups can help you keep track of your condition and whether it's safe for you 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 their inability to drive as a very big loss and a decrease in their independence.
- Discuss their driving habits, so you can find other transport options to keep them active and socially connected.
- Arrange for more home visits so they don't need to drive.
- 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 and obliged 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.
The Dementia Australia website provides information and resources about dementia and driving in each state:
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Last reviewed: October 2018