Mild Alzheimer's Patients Can Drive Safely
WebMD News Archive
"[T]his finding is further evidence not to suspend driving privileges
based on diagnosis alone," write the authors. Contrary to the views of some
experts, the study indicates that having mild or very mild Alzheimer's disease
doesn't predict a decline in driving ability, at least for the first couple of
The patients were from the Alzheimer's Disease Research Center. Participants
of this registry are enrolled in studies of healthy aging and dementia and
return each year for an evaluation.
In order to enroll in the study, patients had to take a driving test, and
the severity of their disease was determined by a clinical evaluation
consisting of a 90-minute interview and physical and neurological exams by
experienced clinicians. However, Dan Foley, MS, an epidemiologist at the
National Institute on Aging, says that the study is flawed because the
researchers picked only those individuals who were most likely to have good
"I don't think this population is representative of all drivers with
dementia. I think it was a rather robust group who was conscious of the fact
that they were driving with dementia and probably would need to quit,"
Foley tells WebMD. Foley agrees that it's possible to drive safely with
Alzheimer's disease, but not for long.
"For me, a patient with Alzheimer's disease is an accident on the way to
happen. Well, how do you prevent that ...? You have the person stop
driving," says Foley. Morris acknowledges that those in the study may
represent a pro-driving bias, but he says more research needs to be done to see
how the positive finding applies to a larger population of Alzheimer's
The study does show that those with DAT tended to more often be involved in
crashes where they were at fault or where injuries were involved. "What
particular cognitive abilities need to be affected, how severely, and whether
drivers with dementia are more likely to be involved in at-fault or injurious
crashes ... remain to be determined," writes accompanying editorial author
Richard Marottoli, MD, of the VA Connecticut Healthcare System.