Can driving continue after a person has been diagnosed with dementia?
As a general rule, people with early stage or mild dementia can continue to drive, but only after having a driving evaluation. People with moderate or severe dementia should not drive.
Massachusetts is a self-reporting state. It is the responsibility of the individual to notify the Registry of Motor Vehicles (RMV) when there is a medical condition which may affect his/her ability to drive.
If your loved one has been diagnosed with dementia, he/she should report it to the RMV and have a driving evaluation. Many hospitals, rehabilitation centers, and occupational therapists offer driving evaluations. Massachusetts RMV provides a list of driving evaluation programs in Massachusetts.
The symptoms of dementia worsen over time, so those individuals who previously may have passed a driving evaluation should continue to be re-evaluated at least every six months or sooner if necessary. Anyone who does not pass the evaluation must stop driving immediately.
What to expect during the driving evaluation?
Specially trained occupational therapists can perform a driving evaluation. They can recognize the impact of dementia symptoms on the ability to drive.
During the clinical evaluation, the therapist will:
- Review person’s medical and driving history
- Check vision
- Assess memory, judgment and speed of response
- Assess the general motor function (strength, range of motion and flexibility)
During the Road Test therapist and/or driving instructor will be sitting next to a person who takes the test. The therapist will assess:
- Handling the car
- Problem-solving ability and judgment
- Traffic assessment
Continue to Monitor Driving
Even after passing a driving evaluation test, it is still important for relatives and friends to continue monitoring the individual’s driving. Symptoms of dementia may significantly decrease driving skills in a short period of time. It is very important to monitor continually to prevent an accident.