Find Information About:

Drugs & Supplements

Get information and reviews on prescription drugs, over-the-counter medications, vitamins, and supplements. Search by name or medical condition.

Pill Identifier

Pill Identifier

Having trouble identifying your pills?

Enter the shape, color, or imprint of your prescription or OTC drug. Our pill identification tool will display pictures that you can compare to your pill.

Get Started

My Medicine

Save your medicine, check interactions, sign up for FDA alerts, create family profiles and more.

Get Started

WebMD Health Experts and Community

Talk to health experts and other people like you in WebMD's Communities. It's a safe forum where you can create or participate in support groups and discussions about health topics that interest you.

  • Second Opinion

    Second Opinion

    Read expert perspectives on popular health topics.

  • Community


    Connect with people like you, and get expert guidance on living a healthy life.

Got a health question? Get answers provided by leading organizations, doctors, and experts.

Get Answers

Sign up to receive WebMD's award-winning content delivered to your inbox.

Sign Up

Alzheimer's Disease Health Center

Font Size

Early Alzheimer's May Hamper Driving

Study Shows 'Potentially Hazardous Driving' in Patients With Mild Alzheimer's Disease
WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

Jan. 23, 2008 -- Even the early stages of Alzheimer's disease may impair driving ability, new research shows.

In a new study, people with very mild or mild Alzheimer's disease had more accidents and worse scores on a road test than people of the same age without Alzheimer's disease.

Brian Ott, MD, of Brown University and Rhode Island Hospital in Providence, R.I., and colleagues report their findings in today's advance online edition of Neurology.

(As a caregiver, what made you decide it was time to take away the keys? Talk with others on our Alzheimer’s Disease: Support Group message board.)

Driving and Alzheimer's Disease

The study included 128 older drivers (average age: 75) who got brain scans and took mental skills tests. The group included 84 people with early-stage Alzheimer's disease.

During the three-year study, participants took a driving test at least twice and reported any accidents they had.

Ott's team checked state driving records to confirm participants' self-reported crash records. They also advised people who failed the driving test to stop driving.

Throughout the study, the Alzheimer's patients showed riskier driving profiles. They were more likely to fail their first driving test, had a bigger drop in their road test scores over time, and had a worse accident record than people without Alzheimer's.

People with very mild Alzheimer's disease performed better than those with mild Alzheimer's disease. But driving ability "declines fairly rapidly among patients with dementia," the researchers say, adding that the patients they studied may not represent all Alzheimer's patients.

Not Safe to Drive?

Ott's team argues that "vigilance and re-assessment of driving competence should be considered for all older drivers, regardless of whether or not they have cognitive impairment."

As for elders with mild dementia, Ott and colleagues say it would be "reasonable" to assess driving privileges every six months, though that may be expensive and not available nationwide.

But there are different views on issues of driving, aging, and Alzheimer's disease.

The American Association for Geriatric Psychiatry and the American Academy of Neurology support considering halting driving for all Alzheimer's patients, including people with mild Alzheimer's disease, according to Ott's team.

But the Alzheimer's Association states on its web site that "a diagnosis of Alzheimer's disease alone is not a reason to take away driving privileges" and that driving decisions should rest with caregivers.

Today on WebMD

Remember your finger
When it’s more than just forgetfulness.
senior man with serious expression
Which kinds are treatable?
senior man
Common symptoms to look for.
mri scan of human brain
Can drinking red wine reverse the disease?
eating blueberries
Colored mri of brain
Close up of elderly couple holding hands
mature woman
Woman comforting ailing mother
Senior woman with serious expression