A new UK study finds that despite the societal perception that older drivers are all unsafe, older drivers typically show prudent driving behaviors.

In fact, in an article published in the British Medical Journal, the authors make the statement that stopping driving can limit access to family, friends, and services and is an independent risk factor for entry into a nursing home.

The UK study comes in response to new legislation over UK driver licensing rules. Obviously, the intent is to balance mobility, safety and mental health in the growing population of older drivers.

Authors reviewed the evidence and found the risk of crashes in patients with dementia is acceptably low for up to three years after diagnosis.

In the UK, the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency currently states that anyone holding a driving license must, by law, inform the agency when given a diagnosis of any medical condition that might affect safe driving. Doctors must also complete a medical report, on which the agency will base their decision on fitness to drive.

Cognitive testing, however, cannot discriminate between people with early dementia and their ability to drive safely. Evidence from Scandinavia, Australia, and the United States also suggests that mass medical screening or cognitive screening of older drivers has negative consequences on public health.

Therefore, the authors suggest that the main thrust of future measures should focus on opportunistic screening of high risk populations, such as those attending specialist memory clinics, and the refinement of effective pathways for clinicians and the licensing agency to manage mobility and safety.

Source: British Medical Journal