Stanford Center for Memory Disorders

Driving Safety

What can you do if you are worried about your driving safety or the driving safety of a friend or family member?

It is important to voice your concerns and to discuss the possibility of retiring from driving. This conversation can be difficult to initiate, but don't hesitate to ask for advice from a physician on how to proceed. In addition, the websites listed at the end of this page offer helpful advice.

Concerns about driving safety may be raised by physicians, family members, or patients themselves, and it is very common for there to be disagreement about whether a person's driving skills have changed or what to do next. There are many possible reasons why someone's driving safety might be a cause for concern, such as reaction time, vision, spatial perception, navigation, judgment, memory, language, or arm or leg coordination. Importantly, these reasons may have nothing to do with overall cognitive strengths or with the individual's driving record, which may be perfect. Moreover, the worry may be less about causing an accident than about defending against other bad drivers on the road. It is better to retire from driving before a near-miss or an actual collision leads to shaken nerves, property damage, or -- worse yet -- injury.

Sometimes, an individual will decide voluntarily, often at the urging of their physician or family members, to discontinue driving. If you need help deciding whether it is time to give up driving, you can ask the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) to perform a driving assessment, which usually consists of an in-person consultation, a written test, and a road test. The DMV can exchange a driver's license for an identification card, so that the individual would not have to go without this important picture ID card.

Sometimes, the decision not to drive comes from the state government. California law requires physicians who have diagnosed dementia to report the name of that patient to the Public Health Department. Public health officials will in turn report the patient to the DMV. Only the DMV, after considering the advice of a doctor and the results of a driving test that they may choose to administer, can make a final decision about whether an individual may continue to drive. Although our clinic does not generally advise pursuing an appeal, a patient may request a hearing or investigate other legal remedies.

More Information on Driving and Dementia:

Stanford Medicine Resources:

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