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Warning Over Driving With Dementia

A motion is being put forward at the BMA Annual Representative Meeting today (Tuesday 23 June 2015) requesting the BMA Board of Science to investigate the increasing problem of the potential impairment of judgement of some elderly drivers, with particular reference to those in the early stages of dementia.

The GP proposing the motion, Dr Peter Holden, said: 

‘Driving is a complex psychomotor activity requiring many faculties to be integrated of course in dementia you can’t integrate them.  While you may tick the box for having adequate vision, adequate hearing or adequate musculoskeletal abilities, you may not have the brainpower to put that lot together.  Everyone regards a driving licence as a right, but it’s a privilege, a privilege to hold a lethal weapon.’

‘The concern is, confront them with something sudden and they won’t be able to cope because it breaks the routine. My great concern is that one day we will be faced with something like that and God forbid, [someone will] put a car into a line of children.’

George McNamara, Head of Policy at Alzheimer’s Society said:

‘Scaremongering is not helpful in making rational decisions in this area. A dementia diagnosis is not in itself a reason to stop driving. The critical issue, both legally and practically, is whether an individual is able to drive safely. This decision requires individual judgments which can be clinically difficult and need sensitive handling. We are working with the DVLA and others to provide greater clarity on how this assessment should best be done. We would support the issuing of more guidance in this area for clinicians, people with dementia and those supporting them.’

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