Alzheimer’s Safety – Unsafe Driving

Return to prior page:  Home Safety – Impaired Senses

Driving is a complex activity that demands quick reactions, alert senses, and split-second decision-making.  For a person with Alzheimer’s, driving becomes increasingly more difficult.  Memory loss, impaired judgment, disorientation, impaired visual and spatial perception, slow reaction time, diminished attention span, inability to recognize cues such as stop signs and traffic lights can make driving particularly hazardous.

Warning Signs

Often, it is the caregiver, a family member, neighbor or friend who becomes aware of the safety hazards.  If a person with AD experiences one of more of the following problems, it may be time to limit or stop driving.  Does the loved one:

  • get lost while driving in a familiar location?
  • fail to observe traffic signals?
  • drive at an inappropriate speed?
  • become angry, frustrated, or confused while driving?
  • make slow or poor decisions?

Please do not wait for an accident to happen.  Take action immediately!  People with Alzheimer’s who continue to drive can be a danger to themselves, their passengers, and the community at large.  As the disease progresses, they lose driving skills and must stop driving.  Unfortunately, people with AD often cannot recognize when they should no longer drive.  This is a tremendous safety concern.  It is extremely important to have the impaired person’s driving abilities carefully evaluated.

Explaining to the person with Alzheimer’s that he or she can no longer drive can be extremely difficult.  Loss of driving privileges may represent a tremendous loss of independence, freedom and identity.  It is a significant concern for the person with AD and the caregiver.  The issue of not driving may produce anger, denial, and grief in the person with AD, as well as guilt and anxiety in the caregiver.  Family and concerned professionals need to be both sensitive and firm.  Above all, they should be persistent and consistent.

See the next page in this series:  Alzheimer’s Safety – Unsafe Driving (continued)


Acorn wishes to acknowledge the National Institutes of Health, National Institute on Aging and the Alzheimer’s Disease Education and Referral (ADEAR) Center that were the sources for this valuable content.