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Dementia patients "can still drive"

A new study claims many people suffering from the early stages of dementia are still safe to continue driving.

Research suggests that drivers with conditions such as Alzheimer's have a low risk of crashes for up to three years after the onset of the disease.

At the moment, anyone newly diagnosed with dementia must notify the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA).

The DVLA then contacts their GP and, based on the medical information it receives, makes a decision on whether they can carry on driving.

The review of clinical data, published in the British Medical Journal, found that the challenge for doctors and the DVLA is to "balance mobility and safety" as the population of older drivers grows.

Lead researcher Professor Desmond O'Neill, of the Trinity Centre for Health Sciences in Dublin, said there is a misconception about how age-related disease affects driving.

Although several medical journals have discovered a rise in crashes per mile driven for older people, a number of studies have established this is related to low mileage rather than age, he said.

In an interview with the BBC, he added: "People with early dementia tend to be very safe drivers and they tend to limit their own driving themselves when they deteriorate."

British Medical Journal

Your comments: (Terms and conditions apply)

"No, no, no. My son who has cancer and has been bravely fighting for 10 years now, waited 6 months for a 3-year licence. My grandmother has early stage dementia and no I do not think she should drive as there are moments when she is a bit odd, so I tell her she is tired and take over. They talk about 17-year-olds being dangerous, what about the elderly? We live near a nursing home and the elderly do not limit themselves, they still think they're young and have no fear of how hazardous they are being. My friend who runs this nursing/care home has often taken away car and mobility scooter keys as she feels that they could be a danger and quite right too, but the elderly people there put up a fight and insist they are well enough to drive. Professor Desmond O'Neill is having a laugh, which could have dire conseqences" - Name and address supplied

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