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When a driver has to give up their driving licence, it is one of the most difficult times of their life. It often means a loss of independence and self-identity which can lead to depression and physical illness. Indeed, it can even shorten life expectancy.
Dementia not only affects our short-term memory but can also affect our ability to make quick decisions, our ability to multi task, our spatial awareness and our concentration, and it will eventually become unsafe to carry on driving.
So, anyone who has a role in deciding when a driver should stop driving has to strike the most appropriate balance between the risk of driving and the detrimental affects of stopping.
The risk of driving in early stages of Alzheimer's, for example, would appear to be fairly low as long as the driver retains insight about the risk of a collision and refrains from driving on unfamiliar complex or fast road layouts.
This is partly because, unlike many drivers who have collisions, they are less likely to become complacent with attention to the driving task being relatively high.
However, when this crucial insight into risk becomes diminished, as it surely will eventually, this is the time where the need to retain safe levels outstrips the advantages of remaining independent.
When you look at the guidance that is issued by the DVLA in the UK, and understand their approach, you can clearly see that they recognise that a balance needs striking.
So, what needs to happen after a diagnosis of dementia?
The first thing that needs to happen is you need to notify DVLA about the diagnosis. Even if they are already aware that the driver has memory problems they still need to be updated. It is also recommended that you make your insurance company aware, although normally this will not affect your premium.
The DVLA will normally contact the driver to gain permission to speak to their GP and then follow this up by asking the GP if the driver is still fit to hold a driving licence. This is where the whole system can get a little complicated and guidance is not clear cut but down to personal opinion in many cases.
For a start, the GP will usually not have any information on what the patient's driving is actually like and it is very difficult for any doctor to tell a patient that they need to stop driving for many reason's
The driver is unlikely to accept this verdict, and can cause the doctor to spend extra effort in defending that position. So, you can see that, from a human point of view, it is much easier for a doctor to let a patient carry on driving in the absence of further information.
Click here to view a video that perfectly decides a doctor's dilema here.
The medical enquiry carried out by DVLA can sometimes take many months. If the current driving licence has expired in this time, a new one won't be issued until the medical enquiry is complete.
However, the driver may continue to drive under Section 88 of the Road Traffic Act 1998 providing they have their doctor's support.
Click here for a video of a doctor talking to a driver with dementia
What guidance, on dementia, is issued by DVLA to health professionals?
It is difficult to assess driving ability in people with dementia. DVLA acknowledges that there are varied presentations and rates of progression, and the decision on licensing is usually based on medical reports.
■ poor short-term memory, disorientation, and lack of insight and judgement almost certainly mean no fitness to drive
■ disorders of attention cause impairment
■ in early dementia, when sufficient skills are retained and progression is slow, a licence may be issued subject to annual review.
Driving with a Medical Condition
As we get older we become more likely to develop a medical condition that will affect our ability to continue to drive safely.
Where a purely physical condition is involved, adaptions to the vehicle can often be made to allow drivers to continue.
But if the condition affects the way that we think and process information such as cognitive impairment from conditions such as Dementia, or stemming from Stroke, or Parkinson's Disease, we are likely to gradually become less able to drive safely.
This doesn't mean we automatically need to give up driving as soon as a diagnosis is made but we do need to listen to the health professionals advice about driving.
The need to report these conditions to the Driver and Vehicle Licencing Agency (DVLA) often leads to a prolonged medical enquiry whilst DVLA liaise with your doctor and other professionals before renewing a driving licence.
This process seems complicated and worrying but we have many years of experience dealing with people in similar situations and a driving assessment can often help to smooth the path by informing your doctor, and DVLA, what your driving is actually like.
The cost for a practical assessment is £60.00. This will take approximately 90 minutes.
Driving assessment for those with a medical condition
We have many years of experience in delivering driving assessments to drivers with a medical condition. Although we are not medically trained, we do have a basic understanding of how medical conditions such as stroke or dementia can affect driving.
These assessments can only be done if the driver allows us to send a copy of the report to their GP.
Currently only available from any meeting point in Bournemouth and surrounding areas.
Discussing the options
Helping the family
When a loved one is facing the end of their driving career it can be particularly hard on family members. This is particularly true when dementia is involved as the driver may not have the insight to understand why they need to stop driving.
if you want to read more about this please click on the button below to go to our page on 'The Road to Driving Retirement.