Researchers at Rhode Island Hospital and Brown University have revealed that people with early Alzheimer's Disease (AD) are more prone to accidents as well as performing poorly in road tests. The study also revealed that some individuals with very mild dementia could drive safely for extended periods of time.
The study led by Dr Brian Ott, director of the Alzheimer's Disease and Memory Disorders Center at Rhode Island Hospital and professor at Brown University examined 128 individuals that included 84 with early AD and 44 age-matched control subjects without the disease.
They observed driving abilities of the patients through self-reports, family reports and a standardized road test.
The findings revealed that people with early AD were more prone to accidents and performed more poorly on road tests, compared to the participants without cognitive impairments.
"We also found that people with what is defined as mild dementia were significantly more like to fail a road test than those defined with very mild dementia," said Dr Ott.
The results also showed that people with mild dementia were nearly four times more likely to fail a road test than those with very mild dementia.
"It is clear, however, that driving ability declines fairly rapidly among patients with dementia, and therefore, regular follow-up assessments are warranted in these people with very mild dementia," he added.
Researchers also discovered that drivers who did not have the average education experience were likely to fail a road test
The failure was 10 percent more likely for each year fore those who lack the average education experience of 14 years.
"The odds of failing a road test increased by about six percent for every year exceeding the age of 75," he said.
"The results suggest that a regular driving assessment program may actually reduce the frequency of motor vehicle accidents in drivers with mild dementia by increasing awareness among the driver and caregivers," he added.
The study appears in journal of American Academy of Neurology.