Driving and Alzheimer's Disease

For most people, driving represents freedom, control, and independence. Driving enables most people to get to the places they want to go, and to see the people they want to see when they want to see them. But driving is a complex skill. Our ability to drive safely can be compromised by changes in our physical, emotional, mental, and cognitive conditions.

The goal is to help you, your family, and your health care professional talk about how Alzheimer's will affect your ability to drive safely.

How can having Alzheimer's disease affect my driving?

There are some early and clear warning signs that Alzheimer's is affecting your driving. For example, you might:

  • Need more help than you used to with directions, or with learning a new driving route;
  • Have trouble remembering where you are going, or where you left your car;
  • Get lost on routes that were once familiar;
  • Have trouble making turns, especially left turns;
  • Feel confused when exiting a highway, or by traffic signs such as a four-way stop;
  • Receive citations for moving violations;
  • Find other drivers often honk their horns at you;
  • Stop at a green light, or brake inappropriately;
  • Drift out of your lane;
  • Have less control over your muscles so it may be harder to push down on the pedals or turn the steering wheel;
  • Find dents and scrapes on your car that you can't explain;
  • Find that others are questioning your driving safety; and
  • Have a hard time controlling your anger, sadness, or other emotions that can affect your driving.

What If I am experiencing these warning signs?

If you are experiencing warning signs such as those listed above, you should see your physician. If warranted, you might be referred to a driver rehabilitation specialist like finger Lakes Driver Rehabilitation, LLC for an evaluation.

As the disease progresses, driving will become increasingly unsafe. Your doctor can help you decide when you should stop driving.

What can I do when Alzheimer's affects my driving?

In may communities nationwide, a driver rehabilitation specialist can give you on and off-road tests to assess your driving. The specialist also can help you determine how your driving ability is changing and help you decide when your driving is no longer safe.

Understanding how your ability to drive is changing over time is important to keep you and others around you safe.

Who can I call for help with transportation?

Call the ElderCare Locator at 1-800-677-1116 and ask for your local Office on Aging, or go to their website at www.eldercare.gov.

Contact your regional transit authority to find out which bus or train to take.

Call Easter Seals Project ACTION (Accessible Community Transportation In Our Nation) at 1-800-659-6428 or go to their website at
www.projectaction.org.

Where do I find out more about Alzheimer's disease and its treatment?

Your first step is to talk with your doctor.

You can also contact:

Alzheimer's Association
or call 800-272-3900

Alzheimer's Disease Education and Referral Center
or call 800-438-4380

Alzheimer's Association
Safe Return™

or call 888-572-8566

ElderCare Locator
or call 800-677-1116

National Institute of Neurological and Disorders and Stroke
301-496-5751, 800-352-9424

National Institute on Aging Senior Health
National Institute on Aging Driving
or call 800-222-2225

Wear your safety belt

Always wear your safety belt when you are driving or riding in a car. Make sure that every person who is riding with you also is buckled up. Wear your safety belt even if your car has air bags.

This information was brought to you by The US Department of Transportation, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration