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Tips on Determining When it's Time to Turn Over the Keys/ Dementia & Driving

How many of you were excited to obtain a driver's license at the age of 16? Most teenagers were excited about having this independence, although it came with responsibility. Driving involves utilizing various skills such as visual, motor, and cognitive. "The task of driving requires the ability to receive sensory information, process the information, and to make proper timely judgements and responses."(Yale, Hansotia, Knapp, Ehrfurth, 2003, pg1) Here are a list of detailed skills that need to be utilized in driving:

  • Reaction Time (one's ability to act quickly in a situation)

  • Memory (ability to remember where one is going or came from)

  • Problem solving (ability to address problems that could occur on the road)

  • Attention & Focus (ability to navigate between paying attention to the road and driving duties)

  • Judgement (ability to make good decisions relative to driving)

  • Visuospatial (how far apart objects are from one another and you)

Now that we have addressed the necessary skills needed to drive, the question comes to mind, when is the right time to take the keys away from someone suffering from dementia. First, it is not easy for a person to lose independence and for the sake of this subject, driving. Driving gives a person the freedom to go to and fro whenever they feel like it. Taking that freedom away from someone can be very devastating. For this reason, it is imperative to approach this topic with sensitivity.

According to ADED, (The Association for Driver Rehabilitation Specialist) here are a few warning signs to look for:

  • Driving too slowly

  • Doesn't observe signs or signals

  • Difficulty interpreting traffic situations and predicting changes

  • Failure to yield

  • Easily frustrated or confused

  • Frequently gets lost

  • Needs instructions from passengers

  • Poor road condition or driving the wrong way down the streets

Always consult your physician, and another added resource is a Driver Rehabilitation Specialist. A Driver Rehabilitation Specialist has the knowledge and skills to assess the driving ability of individuals with or without cognitive impairment. The laws regarding reporting individuals with a dementia diagnosis varies from state to state. Some states require physicians to report this information to the DMV whereas others do not.


  1. Yale, S.; Hansotia, P.; Knapp, D.; Ehrfurth, J. Neurologic Conditions: Assessing Medical Fitness to Drive (

  2. Driving and Alzheimers/Dementia (

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