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The number of drivers with dementia is expected to increase exponentially over the coming decades. Most individuals with moderate-to-severe dementia (table 1) are unfit to drive.1 Drivers with moderate-to-severe dementia have higher rates of MVCs than age-matched controls.2 Identifying and preventing these individuals from driving is crucial, particularly in urban areas. The density of cars and pedestrians, and the complexity of traffic typically place greater demands on drivers in urban areas, and, therefore, require greater reactivity and forward planning than in rural environments.3 ,4 The ability to drive is a critical means of maintaining one's social inclusion, and is commonly a practical necessity. Therefore, decisions about the entitlement to drive should not unfairly restrict mobility or unnecessarily compound the disadvantages experienced by older people with mild cognitive impairment and early dementia (table 1), particularly as diagnoses are now being made earlier.1
This paper describes the difficulties inherent in addressing the question of when and in what circumstances a diagnosis of dementia might render a person unfit to drive and focuses on those who live in rural areas. We examine the consequences of dementia diagnosis on driving, driver testing requirements and licensing procedures, and the impacts of driving cessation. We then discuss how living in rural areas may alter the level of risk of drivers with dementia and practical implications for licensing policies.
Diagnosis and effects of dementia on driving
The risk of motor vehicle collisions due to drivers with early dementia is equivalent to age-matched controls,5 and it is estimated that 22%–46% of patients with mild-to-moderate dementia continue to drive.6 There is, therefore, an ill-defined window of time during which drivers with a diagnosis of dementia can drive as safely as other drivers of the same age. Most available evidence pertain to Alzheimer's …
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