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Senior Driver Information Exercise and Flexibility


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Cognitive Functions

Cognitive function refers to your ability to process incoming information. Cognition is your awareness of your surroundings using your perception, reasoning, judgment, intuition, and memory. Any cognitive impairment will negatively affect your ability to drive safely.

How do cognitive impairments affect senior drivers?

Dementia is one of the most serious cognitive disorders affecting the older population. Dementia is frequently unrecognized and undocumented. Unfortunately, before it is recognized, dementia can progress beyond the stage where early treatment may have slowed the course of the disease. Seniors suffering from dementia present a significant challenge to driving safety and individuals with progressive dementia ultimately lose their ability to drive safely.

Unlike senior drivers with motor function or vision impairments who tend to self-restrict their driving, senior drivers with dementia will continue driving even when it is unsafe for them to do so. It is often up to family members and caregivers to put a stop to the senior's driving and arrange alternative transportation for them.

What are some of the causes of cognitive impairment?

The following diseases are some of the causes of an individual's cognitive impairment:

  • Dementia (Alzheimer's disease and other dementia)
  • Brain Tumor
  • Multiple sclerosis
  • Parkinson's disease
  • Seizure disorder (lapse of consciousness condition)
  • Sleep disorders (Narcolepsy, sleep apnea - lapse of consciousness condition)
  • Stroke
  • Vertigo

The important thing to remember about many cognitive impairments is that many are progressive. Early diagnosis and treatment is vital to ensure that you will be able to drive for as long as possible. As long as your condition remains mild, you should be able to continue driving. However, once the condition reaches the moderate or severe stages, it is too dangerous for you to continue driving.

What actions does DMV take on cognitive impairment?

If you have been referred to DMV or have been diagnosed with mild cognitive impairment, you will be scheduled for a driver safety reexamination. The reexamination is conducted in-person by a DMV hearing officer.

You will be required to take a written test and you may also be required to take a vision test. If you pass the written test and the hearing officer determines that a Supplemental driving test is appropriate, you will be scheduled for one. If you pass the Supplemental driving test, you will be allowed to continue driving, but you will be scheduled for another reexamination within 6 to 12 months to reassess your driving abilities.

What actions can be taken after the reexamination?

After your reexamination, the DMV hearing officer may:

  • Determine that no condition exists that makes you unsafe to drive.
  • Reexamine your driving ability at a future date.
  • Tell you that you must comply with your medical regimen and report any changes to DMV.
  • Tell you that you must submit annual medical reports to DMV on specified dates.
  • Issue you a limited term driver license. A limited term driver license is one that is issued for a term shorter than a regular term license. This type of license requires you to return to DMV for more frequent reevaluation and/or testing.
  • Restrict your driving privilege.
  • Suspend or revoke your driving privilege.
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