Alzheimer's Drivers Might Be Banned from the Road

Although people suffering from Alzheimer are allowed to get behind the wheel in the early stages of the disease, doctors think they represent a potential danger for the other road users.

According to New York Times, a study conducted by Jeffrey Dawson of the University of Iowa and published in the journal of Neurology is likely to help doctors to detect which early Alzheimer’s patients endanger the road safety.

The study was made on 40 drivers with probable Alzheimer’s disease and 115 elderly drivers who were healthy neurologically. Researchers asked them to take a battery of cognitive, visual and motor tests, as well as a 35-mile driving test accompanied by a research assistant in the car. In addition, cameras were recording their performance.

After taking the tests, the researchers found out that Alzheimer’s drivers made nearly 25 percent more mistakes than the healthy motorists. More importantly, drivers suffering from Alzheimer who scored poor results on the skills tests, were even worse at driving.

"We found that tests that involved visual perception and visual memory were particularly important in preventing driving errors," said Jeffrey Dawson.

Certainly, this shows motorists who suffer from Alzheimer are a potential danger in traffic although in the very early stages of the disease they could still properly concentrate on the road. Doctors say the situation becomes even more complicated when the disease advances and the drivers are not aware of the fact that they are no longer safe behind the wheel. Many of them refuse to stop driving even if it is highly necessary.

According to the Alzheimer's Association, a nonprofit based in Chicago, Illinois, Alzheimer’s disease, the most common form of dementia, affects an estimated five million people in the U.S. The situation is even more alarming as the number of elderly drivers suffering from dementia drive freely on the roads.

The  goal, Dawson says, is to combine the most effective tests into one simple exam that doctors could use during routine office check-ups.

Taking into consideration the results of the study as well as the growing number of Alzheimer’s drivers on the road, we wouldn't be surprised if they are banned from driving in the near term. After all, let's not forget that it's the road safety at stake.
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