Should Dementia Patients Be Allowed to Drive?

a senior man is driving a car, car accident lawyerIn the early stages of dementia, patients with mild symptoms of the disease may still possess the skills necessary to safely drive, however, patients with moderate or severe dementia should not be allowed to drive. As dementia progresses, impaired cognitive function, memory loss, disorientation and other symptoms can make driving dangerous. Since the progression of dementia varies from person to person, it’s difficult to know when driving is no longer safe. Some patients recognize that they can no longer safely drive and stop on their own, while others may require family intervention. If you or a family member was seriously injured in car accident, or you lost a loved one, call a Las Vegas accident attorney at Cogburn Law Offices today for a free case consultation.

When Should Driving Stop?

When dementia is first diagnosed, many patients can continue to drive safely without incident. As the disease progresses, driving often becomes dangerous. Patients experience decreased cognitive functions, memory loss, disorientation, and physical impairments that can increase the risk of serious accidents and injuries. Evidence from motor vehicle crash studies shows that drivers with dementia are twice as likely to be in an auto accident that normal drivers. Driving simulation studies show that patients with dementia typically have poor controls over a moving vehicle.

Common problems include:

  • Driving slower than the speed limit
  • Making slower turns
  • Applying inadequate brake pressure in stops
  • Difficulties with signaling, merging and changing lanes
  • Driving off the road
  • Following traffic signals and route directions

When a person is diagnosed with dementia, family members should closely monitor his/her behaviors and have driving skills evaluated. If behaviors such as poor coordination, memory loss, confusion or disorientation, problems judging distance and space, impaired decision making, or difficulty doing everyday tasks are observed, driving should be stopped. Driving with these impairments will put a person at much higher risk of accidents, injuries, and fatalities.

Driving evaluations are often available through State Departments of Motor Vehicles (DMV) or driver rehabilitation programs, but it’s important to inform examiners that the person has dementia prior to the evaluation. In Nevada, concerned relatives can complete a Request for Re-Evaluation describing the driver and their concerns. Their signature must be witnessed by a DMV representative or notary, and the request must be accompanied by an affidavit from a licensed physician stating that he/she agrees with the re-evaluation. Since dementia is a progressive illness, patients who pass a driving evaluation should be monitored and re-evaluated every six months to ensure safe driving and prevent accidents.

If you’ve noticed a decline in your loved ones driving ability as a result of dementia, or have been injured in a car accident from another party for the same reason, our team of skilled Las Vegas personal injury lawyers is here to help. Call Cogburn Law Offices for a free case consultation.