Driving Performance in Persons with Mild Senile Dementia of the Alzheimer Type

Linda Hunt, John C. Morris, Dorothy Edwards, Bradley S. Wilson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

209 Scopus citations


Objective: To assess the effect of mild senile dementia of the Alzheimer type (SDAT) on driving ability. Design: Cross‐sectional study with correlation analysis. Setting: A university‐based Alzheimer's Disease Research Center, which evaluates community‐living older adult volunteers, and the university's Program in Occupational Therapy. Participants: Healthy elderly controls (n = 13) and subjects with very mild (n = 12) and mild (n = 13) SDAT. Dementia severity was staged by the Washington University Clinical Dementia Rating. Measurements: The driving ability of participants on the in‐car road test was scored independently by a driving instructor, blinded to the study design and to the dementia status of the subjects, and an unblinded occupational therapist. Interview‐based perceptions of driving ability were obtained independently from the subjects and their collateral sources. Attentional and visuospatial performances of the subjects were assessed prior to the road test. Results: All control and very mild SDAT subjects were judged to be “safe” drivers (ie, passed the in‐car road test), but five (40%) of the mild SDAT subjects had driving impairment sufficient to “fail” the road test. Neither subject self‐assessment nor caregiver perceptions of driving ability consistently predicted driving performance. Attentional task performance correlated well with road test results. Conclusions: Some SDAT subjects retain “safe” driving skills. The greater the dementia severity, the greater the likelihood of poor driving ability. Performance‐based (road test) evaluations are necessary to properly determine driving skills at present, but attention and other cognitive screening measures should be developed. 1993 The American Geriatrics Society

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)747-753
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of the American Geriatrics Society
Issue number7
StatePublished - Jul 1993


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