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Cognitive impairment increases the chance of an auto accident, but at what point should someone identified as having Alzheimer’s stop driving?

Brian Ott, M.D., professor, The Warren Alpert Medical School, Brown University, studied a group 128 individuals of whom 84 had been diagnosed with early Alzheimer’s disease (AD). The participants all drove. Individuals diagnosed with early AD were interviewed every 6 months over a 3 year period. The interviews included self-reports, family reports, and a standardized road test.

Ott found that people with mild dementia were nearly 4 times more likely to fail a road test than those with very mild dementia.

Education also impacted driving abilities. Odds of failing a road test increased by approximately 6% for every year after the age of 75-years for those with 14 or more years of education. Those participants with below average number of years of education were more likely to fail the road test at an increase of a 10% factor for every year beyond 75.

Researchers note that the clinicians face a challenge in developing a valid and reliable office screening tools, which can assist in making driving assessment referrals and recommendations regarding driving safety for those with early AD.