Can people with dementia drive?

If you have dementia and you want to carry on driving, this information sheet will tell you what you must do to make sure you are driving legally. It will also help families and friends who are worried about whether someone with dementia should still be driving.

Many people with dementia are able to continue driving for some time. However, there are many steps that you must follow upon being diagnosed to determine whether driving is still an option. This includes notifying the DVLA, your insurance company and GP.

People with a diagnosis of dementia often want to continue driving. Driving can be part of maintaining independence and an active life. Most people in the early stages of dementia are physically capable of controlling a car. The basic skills of driving become almost automatic to most drivers, and people with dementia will keep these skills for a considerable time after diagnosis.

British law assumes as its starting point that you have a right to drive. The law only intervenes when medical conditions impair driving ability. The legal position is that a driver has to be able to drive on his or her own, without help from anyone else. The aim is to allow people to continue to drive if possible.

However, dementia affects reaction speed and decision-making. People with dementia may be slower to react, especially under stress. For example, they may have problems in busy traffic, or when something unexpected happens, such as another car stopping suddenly. Research shows that people with dementia are more likely to be involved in accidents than other people.

So: you may be able to carry on driving, but it is important to make sure you are still safe to drive.

Here are some further useful tips:

  • A satnav is relatively new and if you forget how to use it you could run into all sorts of problems, Do not to drive too far, stay on familiar roads and it would be a good idea getting the person living with dementia a GPS device.
  • It is important to advise the DVLA, Insurance company and GP if you have dementia and potentially take a test if you are unsure of your abilities.  It’s very difficult losing your ability to drive but you certainly wouldn’t want to chance it if you weren’t able and put someone else’s life in danger. 
  • There is transport cards available to assist people living with dementia. MyBus is a great way to be able to book a bus and travel free with your bus pass. Please note this card does not cover the whole of Scotland. There is also the Thistle Assistance Card and App which was developed to make using public transport easier for older people and those with disabilities or illness.

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Three women read dementia information and reports