Effects of Memory Loss on Driving
News reports about lost drivers with dementia/Alzheimer's disease; elderly drivers
207 news reports (reported over 10 years)
Introduction: Research on driving and dementia reports that drivers who have early Alzheimer disease (AD) may continue to drive for extended periods of time as long as their driving is evaluated or monitored. It is known that the earliest symptoms of AD include loss of recent memory and the inability to recognize familiar environments. AD patients may become disoriented in unfamiliar environments and later have difficulty finding their way in familiar environments. Functionally, this means that drivers start out driving and forget where they intended to go, may not recognize or attend to their own familiar neighborhood streets and landmarks, and consequently become lost. Demented drivers may ask for directions to return home. Yet, they may not remember information provided and continue to drive becoming more confused and disoriented. Getting lost may result in death or injury.
Methods: The data for this study was found through an extensive Internet search for all incidents published in newspapers in which an older adult diagnosed with dementia or Alzheimer disease became lost while driving. To find all relevant data three main strategies were used including exploring Internet search engines, missing person’s databases, and publication databases. Multiple combinations of the following search terms were used: dementia, Alzheimer, missing, lost, found, driving, drive, drove, car and truck.
Results: We examined 207 reports of lost demented drivers over ten years. Including passengers, 116 individuals were found alive; of those, 35 were injured; 32 were found dead; and 70 were not found. Miles driven and days missing were also reported in addition to cause of death such as drowning or exposure to weather.
Conclusion: The deaths cited in the sample of newspaper articles told stories showing that the effects of dementia on driving navigation need more exploration. Furthermore, the cognitive load of being lost may contribute to accidents.
Hunt, Linda, "Effects of Memory Loss on Driving" (2009). Pacific University Research Data. Paper 10.
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