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Cognitive impairment is defined as decline in at least one of the following areas: short-term memory, attention, orientation, judgment and problem-solving skills, and visual-spatial skills. Changes in any of these areas could affect a person's ability to drive any motor vehicle, including cars, golf carts, and lawn mowers. About 4% of current drivers over 75 years old have dementia (multiple cognitive deficits including memory impairment). The April 28, 2010, issue of JAMA includes an article about older drivers with cognitive impairment.
There is no standard test that can determine whether a person with cognitive impairment can drive safely. At the beginning of decline, a person may still be fully safe as a driver of motor vehicles. Many people with mild cognitive impairment will not experience any further decline and will continue to be skilled, safe drivers. Others have progressive decline in memory and other cognitive functions. If you suspect cognitive impairment in yourself or in a family member, early medical examination is important to ensure that driving safety is not reduced. Your physician may recommend limits on driving or a comprehensive driver evaluation before continuing to drive. Some medications can also affect your ability to drive.
Chang HJ, Burke AE, Glass RM. Older Drivers and Cognitive Impairment. JAMA. 2010;303(16):1660. doi:10.1001/jama.281.16.1560
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