Driving & travel

My doctor told me I wouldn’t be able to drive anymore but I was sure I could.  I got in touch with the DVLA and after an assessment they cleared me to carry on.  I have to have a test every year but I want to drive for as long as possible.

- Dave, living with young onset Alzheimer’s disease

A diagnosis of dementia does not necessarily mean you have to stop driving, but you must tell the DVLA and your insurance company immediately, or you could face a fine of up to £1,000 and your insurance will be invalid.

You will need to fill in a form to tell the DVLA about your dementia.  If completing a form is something you might struggle with, ask a friend or family member to help complete the form with you.  The information you give them is treated in confidence.  You may then be asked to take a driving assessment.  If the DVLA decides you are safe to continue driving, they will issue you with a new licence that is valid for a limited period.  After that, your competence will be reviewed at least once every 12 months.

If they decide that you have to stop driving, you will have to return your driving licence.  You may be able to appeal.  Visit the DVLA website for more information.

Peter isn’t able to drive anymore. The car sat on the drive for six months gathering dust and being a reminder of the past.  The tax was due and Peter made the decision it should be sold.  It was important that decisions were made by Peter.

- Miranda, whose husband Peter was diagnosed with frontotemporal dementia, aged 62

Tell your insurer

As with any other serious medical condition, you do need to let your insurer know if you are diagnosed with dementia.  If you do not, your policy will become invalid.  It is illegal to drive without valid insurance. You can ask someone close to you to contact your insurers on your behalf to tell them about your change of circumstances, if this is something you are not able to do personally. 

Carrying on driving

If you are able to carry on driving, you might decide to only drive on quieter roads or routes that you know well, or with a passenger accompanying you.  It is never a good idea to drive if you are tired and it is wise to pull over if you start to feel unwell, or confused.  

When the time comes when you are no longer able to drive, it can feel as though you have lost a large part of your freedom and independence but there are alternatives to driving, such as taxis, lifts from friends and public transport that mean you can still get around, even without being able to drive yourself. 

Ken Clasper, who is living with young onset dementia has written a piece for our website about driving and young onset dementia.  You can read it here.  And Jane has written a piece for us about her husband's decision to stop driving, you can read it here

Getting a Blue Badge

You may be eligible for a Blue Badge so you can park nearer to where you are going.  You, or the person completing the form with you, will need to demonstrate on the application form the challenges that cognitive impairment can bring when you want to go out.  For example, limited mobility, anxiety, risk of getting lost.  Visit the government’s information website for more details.

The application process is slightly different if you live in Scotland or Northern Ireland.

Dr James McKillop has written a book sharing his personal experience of giving up driving due to a dementia diagnosis.  You can read it here Driving with Dementia - My Experiences

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