American Academy of Neurology Study Reveals Surprising Concerns About Elderly Drivers

older driver safetyThe American Academy of Neurology concluded after a recent study that many older drivers perceive their driving skills to be better than they actually are. Further, many older drivers with impairment (even dementia) are successfully able to pass a retesting procedure, despite being unsafe drivers.

Lead study author Dr. Donald Iverson of the Humboldt Neurological Medical Group advises that the decision to stop driving should be physician-directed in cooperation with the patient and the patient’s caregivers. The study concludes that both physicians and caregivers of dementia patients should be more proactive in identifying signs that a person’s driving ability has become impaired, as many patients with dementia continue to drive.

Dr. Iverson also notes that information should be gathered from a number of sources; relying on one source of information is not sufficient on which to base a decision. For example, patients may pass a driving test, yet still exhibit unsafe driving behaviors. Dementia is a complex disease, and patients often have good and bad days, making a single assessment inadequate.

Recommendations from the study include the use of the Clinical Dementia Rating (CDR) scale. Researchers found that caregivers who assessed a loved one’s driving as marginal or unsafe were typically accurate; however, patients who rated their own driving as safe tended to be less accurate in their own assessment.

The study points to the following indicators that a person’s driving may be unsafe:

  1. Accidents or moving violations
  2. Driving fewer total miles
  3. Avoiding difficult driving situations (driving at night or in the rain)
  4. Driving unusually slow
  5. Disregard of driving regulations and road courtesy

In addition to these, caregivers should be cautious if a patient is taking medication or has a condition which can slow reaction time. Continued monitoring of a person’s driving abilities is an important part of dementia safety.

Read the full study from the American Academy of Neurology.

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