Driving and Dementia
California physicians are required by law (Health and Safety Code Section 103900) to report people with
certain conditions including those that may impair their driving ability to the DMV. These conditions include:
• Any condition that causes lapses in consciousness, such as seizures or narcolepsy.
• Dementias including Alzheimer Disease and related disorders
The final decision about whether or not a person keeps his or her driver’s license is up to the DMV.
Patients and caregivers may not know when a driver is impaired.
Patients with mild to moderate dementia tend to restrict their own driving. While this is the safe thing to do, it is also a sign that the person may not be safe on the road. Signs of restricted driving include:
• Not driving on highways
• Not driving in the dark
• Not driving in the rain
• Only driving in familiar places
People who continue to drive with self-imposed restrictions have a fivefold increased risk of crashes.
In a study of patients with mild Alzheimer disease, 94% rated themselves as safe, but 60% failed an
on-road driving test.
Caregivers are better at detecting unsafe driving than patients are. However, in the same study, caregivers still overrated patients’ driving performances in nearly every category.
If a diagnosis of dementia is made, it must be reported to the DMV
What to expect if a person is reported to the DMV:
1. After the report, the DMV will send the paperwork with a due date to the driver’s home. If the paperwork is not returned by that date, the license will be suspended.
2. Two pages of the paperwork need to be filled out by the driver. The rest of the paperwork needs to be filled out by your primary care doctor or by the Alzheimer Center and then faxed to the DMV.
3. The DMV determines whether or not further testing is necessary.
4. Drivers with moderate-to-severe dementia are most often not allowed to continue driving.
5. Those with mild dementia may be allowed to continue driving, but further testing may be required. This normally consists of:
a. An in-person interview
b. A knowledge test
c. A special driving test.
The DMV makes the final decision about the person’s ability to drive.
Alternative Transportation Options in Fresno and Surrounding Areas
Even if a person’s license is renewed by the DMV, now is the time to proactively begin planning for how to get around. Organize a “travel agenda” and start filling in who can help when. Family, friends, and church members may be very helpful.
Valley Caregivers Resource Center: (559) 224-9154. Contracts with 15 agencies to provide free transportation for its clients aged 60 and older for the first few months after referral. The person must be accompanied.
The City of Fresno Handy Ride: (559) 621-5770. Door-to-door service. Application at least one day advance notice required. The fee is $.75 each way with ADA certification. Monthly bus pass $25.
Fresno Area Express (FAX): 621-RIDE (7433) offers several services to reduce or eliminate the cost of public transportation.
Clovis Roundup Transit: (559) 324-2760. 65 years and older. Can make reservations up to 2 weeks in advance. $1 each way in Clovis, $1.75 to $2.50 each way to Fresno.
Tulare County Area Transit (TCaT): 1-800-431-9711. Serves urban and rural communities throughout Tulare County. Both fixed route and Dial-A-Ride services.
Kings Area Rural Transit (KART): (559) 582-3211, ext. 2828. Dial-A-Ride service to residents of Hanford, Lemoore and Avenal.
AAA Medical Transportation: (559) 432-0604. Service 24/7. Medi-Cal pays for some services. Private pay $65 round trip in town, $20 pick-up and $1.50 each mile out of town. Serves Fresno, Merced, Madera Counties
Tri County Medical Transport, Kings, Tulare, Fresno, & Kern counties: (800)996-2990. Non-emergency wheelchair $65.00 per trip and $3.00 per mile. If medically indicated, the following insurances will cover transport expenses: Medi-Cal, Blue Cross, Health Net