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Driving Skills Decline Among People With Early Alzheimer's
Date:1/24/2008

Those with mild dementia had more crashes, almost 4 times more likely to fail road tests

THURSDAY, Jan. 24 (HealthDay News) -- People with early Alzheimer's disease were involved in more traffic crashes and performed worse on road tests than drivers without cognitive impairment, a new study finds.

The findings, by researchers at Rhode Island Hospital and Brown University, confirm previous reports of potentially hazardous driving by people with early Alzheimer's disease (AD). But the study also shows that some people with mild dementia are able to continue driving safely for extended periods of time.

The study included 84 people with early Alzheimer's and a control group of 44 age-matched people without cognitive impairment. Over two to three years, the participants' driving abilities were assessed through self-reports, family reports and a standardized road test.

People with Alzheimer's disease were involved in more crashes and had worse results on road tests than those in the control group. The study also found that people with mild dementia were much more likely to fail a road test than those with very mild dementia.

"Our findings showed that people with mild dementia were almost four times more likely to fail a road test than those with very mild dementia, indicating that people with very mild dementia may be able to drive safely for longer periods of time," principal investigator Dr. Brian Ott, director of the Alzheimer's Disease and Memory Disorders Center at Rhode Island Hospital, said in a prepared statement.

"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," added Ott, a professor at Brown University Medical School.

The findings were published in the Jan. 23 issue of the journal Neurology.

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