New proposals by the Ministry of Justice will see people with dementia who ignore requests to not drive be judged more harshly in the courts.
Stiffer sentencing awaits those with dementia who continue to drive despite them being found incapable of doing so, especially if they go on to have an accident that causes harm to another person.
That’s what the latest calls are from the Ministry of Justice, who are putting together proposals in time for next year’s Queen’s speech.
Current rules state that if you’re diagnosed with dementia, you must declare it the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA). This doesn’t necessarily mean that you can’t drive immediately. However, officials will need to see your medical records to determine if you can still drive. If your diagnosis has come in the earlier stages of dementia, you may be able to continue to drive, but if you’re already into the middle stages of dementia, that may be deemed unsafe.
Drivers who do not tell the authorities about their dementia diagnosis face a fine of up to £1,000.
However, problems develop because many people with dementia are slipping through the cracks of this system and still driving on the roads when it’s no longer safe, posing a risk that could potentially lead to the death of other people.
The calls are part of a broader review of criminal sentencing which includes tougher sentences on drunk drivers who cause accidents.
Gary Rae, campaigns director at the road safety charity Brake, said:
‘It’s vital any driver with a medical condition that could prevent them from driving safely declares that condition to the DVLA. If they fail to do so, they will pose a serious risk to both themselves and other road users. We appreciate that having to give up driving because of a medical condition is a difficult step for some individuals, and this is a discussion that needs to take place with family, GPs and other medical professionals.’
George McNamara, the head of policy at the Alzheimer’s Society, said:
‘A dementia diagnosis is not in itself a reason to stop driving. The critical issue is ensuring that the DVLA is aware of a person’s dementia diagnosis, whether informed by the individual or disclosed by that individual’s GP. This allows the DVLA to decide the person’s ability to drive safely.’