Driving and Dementia
Caregivers should continually reassess the driving abilities of the care recipient with Alzheimer’s and related dementia. As impairment increases, the caregiver should balance loss of independence and dignity against the risk to self and others.
Some of the warning signs of unsafe driving by someone with Alzheimer’s are inability to locate familiar places (getting lost); failure to observe and obey traffic signs and speed limits; poor or slow decision-making in traffic; stopping before intersections and anger, confusion or frustration while driving. At the Crossroads: A Guide to Alzheimer’s Disease, Dementia & Driving is an excellent publication that offers such things as tips for balancing independence and safety, warning signs for drivers with dementia, and an agreement with the family about driving.
The State of Florida has in place a process by which the general public may report medically impaired drivers who may pose a threat to public safety. Florida Statutes section 322.126(2), (3), provides that “Any physician, person, or agency having knowledge of any licensed driver’s or applicant’s mental or physical disability to drive…is authorized to report such knowledge to the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles…” These reports shall be confidential and no civil or criminal action may be brought against any physician, person, or agency who provides the information.
When a report is sent in to the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles, it is carefully screened by medical disability specialists and forwarded to investigators who work for the department. The investigators make contact with the driver and submit reports on their findings to the medical review section in Tallahassee. Investigators can interview family members, neighbors, or the driver’s physician as part of the investigation. Drivers may be requested to submit a medical report from their physician and/or be required to report to a driver license office for re-testing. If the investigator does not find any substance or validity to the complaint, no further action is taken. The form is available on the web site or you may report an unsafe driver by calling 1-850-617-3814 or writing:
Division of Driver Licenses
Attn: Medical Review Section
Neil Kirkman Building, MS 86
Tallahassee, Fl 32399-0500