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Driving Safely and Alzheimer’s Disease: Is it Possible?

Driving safely means obeying all traffic laws and obligations. You need to be alert at all times, think clearly, and make the correct decisions. For example, if you’re tired, then don’t drive — let someone else do it, or take public transportation.


What about a person with Alzheimer’s disease? Would you trust them behind the wheel? Probably not. For the most part, Alzheimer’s sufferers do not think clearly, have trouble making decisions and not be alert due to their medications.


This is a serious safety concern, as the National Institute On Aging (NIA) reports that there are more than 41 million senior citizen drivers, age 65+, on the road today. This is up from 26 million senior citizen drivers from only 26 years ago!


In fact, as people age, there can be a noticeable decline in their hearing, vision and memory — with an increase in their confusion. This is even more true of a senior who also suffers from Alzheimer’s.




driving safely


Driving Safely: Safety First

A person with some memory loss might be able to drive safely sometimes. But, their reaction times are slower and they may not be able to react quickly when faced with a surprise. In this case, the driver should not be on the road in the first place.

The National Institute on Aging (NIA) offers these suggestions to families or caregivers with a member suffering from Alzheimer’s disease:


  • The person may be able to drive short distances on local streets during the day but may not be able to drive safely at night or on a freeway. If this is the case, then limit the times and places the person can drive.
  • Some people with memory problems decide on their own not to drive, while others may deny they have a problem. Persuade them not to get behind the wheel.

Safety First: Stop Unsafe Drivers

Here are some ways the NIA recommends how you can stop people with Alzheimer’s disease from driving:

  • Try talking about your concerns with the person.
  • Take him or her to get a driving test.
  • Ask their doctor to tell them to stop driving. The doctor can write, “Do not drive” on a prescription pad, and you can show this to the person.
  • Hide the car keys, or move the car.



Driving Safely: Alternative Travel Options

If a person with Alzheimer’s can no longer drive, find other ways that the person can travel on his or her own. Contact your local Area Agency on Aging or Eldercare Locator for information about transportation services in your area.


These services provide free or low-cost buses, taxi service, or carpools for older people. Some churches and community groups have volunteers who take seniors wherever they want to go. Family and friends are another great resource.


If the person with Alzheimer’s disease won’t stop driving, ask your State Department of Motor Vehicles about a medical review. The person may be asked to retake a driving test. In some cases, the person’s license could be taken away.


The National Institute on Aging’s ADEAR Center offers information and free print publications about Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias. It’s available to families, caregivers, and health professionals.


ADEAR Center staff answer telephone, email, and written requests and make referrals to local and national resources.

Here is their contact information:

1-800-438-4380 (toll-free)

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