The most effective way to determine if your loved one is safe to drive is to take a test with a Driver Rehabilitation Specialist. Use this guide and list of resources centers below to take steps to see if your loved one is safe to drive. Or, contact us on our 24/7 Helpline at 1.800.272.3900, and one of our regional care specialists can help guide you through to process.
Caregivers often struggle with the decision whether to take the car keys away from a loved one with Alzheimer’s disease. “This is because no one wants to take away the independence that comes with driving, and because there is a gray area when it is difficult to know for sure whether or not it is safe for the person to drive,” said Ginny Helms, Vice President of Chapter Services and Public Policy for the Alzheimer’s Association, Georgia Chapter. “Often families delay taking the keys away until the person with Alzheimer’s disease gets lost while driving or becomes involved in an accident” said Helms.
Research shows that for the first two years after diagnosis, the accident rate of a person with Alzheimer’s disease is comparable to a person who does not have Alzheimer’s. However, as the disease progresses, the accident rate increases. “The best way to determine if it is time to take away the keys is to have the individual with Alzheimer’s tested by an occupational therapist with specific training and experience in evaluating drivers with dementia,” Helms said. “We don’t want to take the keys away from a person with dementia who is still capable of driving safely, nor do we want to allow persons to drive when they are at risk for harming themselves or others.”
There are usually some indicators families can look for. Some of the red flags indicating it is no longer safe for the person with dementia to drive include involvement in car accidents and minor fender benders, failure to drive appropriate speed limits, ignoring traffic lights and stop signs, getting lost in familiar places and near misses.
“We encourage families to get the support of a physician and to make use of the driving assessment for an accurate determination of when the person should cease driving,” says Helms. “It is often a difficult task for families to make this decision but at least there is more peace of mind when the assessment was used to make the decision.”
Herb Karp, M.D., Medical Director of the Georgia Medical Care Foundation and member of the Governor’s Task for Older Driver Safety teaches physicians about their role in determining whether it is safe for a person to drive. He recommends that if a physician determines it is no longer safe for a person to drive, the physician should recommend that the person “retire” from driving. He also suggests that the physician assesses the person who “retires from driving” to determine if he or she is depressed and recommends that family members arrange transportation for the person who may no longer drive.Driving and the decision to take away driving privileges don’t have to be contentious for families. Physicians and driving assessment centers can play a key role on taking pressure off family members. We have included a list of driving assessment centers in Georgia.
The Department of Driver Services provides evaluations to assess a driver's ability to drive safely. Please fill out this form and mail your completed request to the address designated on the form.