A Driving Instructor's Blog

It’s an unfortunate fact that there are many idiots in this world. This story appears to identify another group of them, located in Washington University, St. Louis, Missouri, if this story is anything to go by.

These jokers have concluded that people with “mild forms” of Alzheimer’s can still drive safely. That’s in spite of the statement:

Although road test studies have shown a clear decline in average driving ability with increasing severity of dementia.

It’s like saying that jumping off a cliff is safe, because it’s only the bit where you hit the ground that’s dangerous! But they go even further by only making the comparison against other older drivers without Alzheimer’s – and I can’t think of an analogy convoluted enough to describe that.

Alzheimer’s is progressive. And it affects every one who gets it differently. But even in the early stages the possible symptoms are:

  • forget about recent conversations or events
  • repeat themselves
  • become slower at grasping new ideas
  • lose the thread of what is being said
  • sometimes become confused
  • show poor judgement, or find it harder to make decisions
  • lose interest in other people or activities
  • develop a readiness to blame others for taking mislaid items
  • become unwilling to try out new things or adapt to change.

That’s from the Alzheimer’s Society. And it should be pretty clear that someone who is likely to be slow on the uptake, to become confused or show poor judgement, to make bad decisions, and to become crotchety is not really a prime example of good driver material. Alzheimer’s typically goes from these early stages to the last stages over a period of about 10 years, but it can be much quicker for some people. People in the last stages end up requiring total nursing care.

Older drivers whose health or eyesight is already deteriorating for whatever reason are notoriously unreliable at recognising or admitting to the fact. Those with Alzheimer’s will be at least as unreliable – if not more so – at deciding to admit they should give up driving. So it is quite unbelievable that these “researchers” should come out with something like this – something which cannot possibly make the overall situation on the roads any better, since we’re talking about a negative progression. Alzheimer’s never progresses in a positive direction.

Altruism has no place in deciding whether people with such illnesses should retain their driving licences.

As many recent stories have shown, older drivers are totally safe – right up until one of them gets on to the wrong carriageway of a motorway or other major road (how on earth does someone manage that?) And I for one don’t like the idea of playing Russian Roulette every time I go out.

The “research” is irresponsible and misleading.

People with Alzheimer’s deserve care and respect – but not a driving licence.

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