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Dementia and Driving in CA: Can You Operate a Motor Vehicle if You Have Dementia?

Article submitted by Delta Driving School.

Dementia is a brain disorder characterized by significantly impaired memory and judgment. Symptoms include disorientation, memory loss, and changes in visual and spatial perception which may result in an individual’s getting lost, having slowed reaction times, or simply forgetting the “rules of the road”.

Under California’s Health & Safety Code [Section 103900], physicians are required to submit a confidential report to the county health department when an individual is diagnosed as having Alzheimer’s disease or dementia severe enough to impair his or her ability to operate a motor vehicle.

This confidential information is forwarded to the California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV), which has the authority to take action against an individual’s driving privileges if he or she is unable to safely operate a motor vehicle.

If the physician’s report suggests an individual has moderate or severe dementia, that individual will no longer be permitted to operate a motor vehicle in the state of California.

Individuals with dementia in the mild stages may still possess the cognitive functions necessary for safe driving, however, the DMV requires re-examination for those reported to have mild dementia.

The procedure for re-examination involves three phases: a visual test, a written test, and an in-person interview. Individuals with mild dementia who pass these three phases must then pass the driving test. Drivers who do poorly on any of the tests are subject to having their license suspended or revoked.

If the individual passes the driving test, his or her license will generally not be suspended or revoked. Instead, restrictions may be imposed such as no night time driving or no freeway driving.

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