Older Adults & Driving

January 9, 2015
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Did you know that motor vehicle injuries are the second leading cause of injury-related deaths among older adults? Adults 80 years and older have higher rates of mortality in motor vehicle accidents than any other age group. Knowing these statistics, it is especially important to note certain medical conditions commonly experienced by older adults that may further risk an automobile accident.

  • Neurocognitive Disorders: Alzheimer’s Disease often involves impairment with memory, attentiveness, problem-solving skills, multitasking, orientation, judgment, and reaction speed. Adults with frontotemporal dementia similarly experience a decline in reasoning, task flexibility, planning, and execution. An important factor to consider is the stage of dementia that the individual is in. If you are concerned about your loved one driving with dementia, you can ask their physician to determine their stage by using a tool such as the Clinical Dementia Rating scale. An individual with a score of 2 or higher would be considered a very high risk driver.
  • Parkinson’s Disease: Driving with Parkinson’s Disease may become an issue as the disease progresses. It is recommended that the individual have a baseline driving evaluation at time of diagnosis and then again every 1 to 2 years to further assess.
  • Episodic Incapacitation (Syncope, Arrhythmias, Seizures): Sudden incapacitation accounts for approximately 1-3% of all motor vehicle accidents. The first of these episodic issues is neurocardiogenic syncope, which is known to be recurrent. Therefore it may be unsafe to drive until symptoms are controlled. Those who suffer from arrhythmias and have an implantable cardioverter-defribrillators (ICD) may experience an unexpected shock. However, the majority of people who have experienced this while driving have been able to continue driving safely.  A chart providing further information about driving with these medical conditions can be found at:
  • Polypharmacy: Many older adults take psychoactive drugs that can impair their functioning. “Roadwise Rx” (roadwiserx.com) can be used to check whether the medications you or your loved one take affect the ability to drive.

Experts say that the opinions of family members or caregivers are reliable predictors of an unsafe driver.  If you are concerned about your loved ones safety while driving, inform their physician of your concern. Further assessment can also be done by a certified driver rehabilitation specialist (CDRS). A list of CDRS’s can be found at www.aded.net.

The information in this blog was adapted from http://www.thoracicsurgerynews.com/uploads/media/Koncilja_DrivingSafety.pdf

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