A call for stricter rules on letting people with dementia drive has been called for at a recent GP conference.
People with dementia who are still driving have been dubbed ‘a risk to the public’ by a GP at the recent British Medical Association conference.
Dr Peter Holden tabled a motion saying that present arrangements between GPs and the Driver & Vehicle Licensing Authority (DVLA) is outdated and means that many people with dementia are slipping through the net and posing a risk to people if they continue driving.
Currently, rules stipulate that you must declare to the DVLA if you have a health condition, including dementia, which may impair your ability to drive. However, there are also lots of people whose dementia is yet to be officially diagnosed, or who hide their diagnosis so they can continue to drive. And with an aging population in the UK and a growing dementia problem, this could cause real problems.
Dr Holden likened drivers with dementia as being ‘as dangerous as gunmen’, a proposed a motion at the BMA annual conference calling for research into the ‘potential impairment of judgement of some elderly drivers’. If the motion is voted through by delegates, the BMA board of science will be asked to compile a report into the problem.
‘There needs to be a mechanism for reporting dementia, or if you think it could be dementia,’ says Dr Holden. ‘There needs to be an “anything else we suspect” question.
‘But we would never want to be in the game of it being my say-so that they lose their licence. Medical revocations must be done by the DVLA.’
Most people who learnt to drive did so many years ago, and have driven for so long that it’s become an automatic action. However, having dementia can mean you start to forget some of these processes. Plus, slower reaction times, and forgetting well-known routes can mean that people with dementia can be shakier and less confident when out on the roads.
‘There needs to be a mechanism for reporting dementia, or if you think it could be dementia’ Dr Peter Holden
However, it’s also worth remembering that you don’t need to give up your license as soon as you are diagnosed with dementia. But it does mean that you need to be monitored more closely by your GP and family and friends to check when worsening symptoms start to impact on your driving abilities.