The 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:
- Accidents or moving violations
- Driving fewer total miles
- Avoiding difficult driving situations (driving at night or in the rain)
- Driving unusually slow
- Disregard of driving regulations and road courtesy
Read the full study from the American Academy of Neurology.
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