Project aims to help identify motorists with dementia who are unfit to drive

A new Loughborough University-led project aims to develop an effective screening test to identify individuals in the early stages of dementia who are unfit to drive.

Funded by The Road Safety Trust, the two-year-long study in conjunction with Monash University in Australia will be headed by Professor Andrew Morris, of the Transport Safety Research Centre in the School of Design and Creative Arts.

Driving is a complex activity requiring a multitude of cognitive skills and abilities. For people with dementia, driving inevitably becomes more difficult and they may become unsafe on roads. 

Researchers have found that people with mild cognitive impairment, a precursor to dementia, often experience a decline in their ability to scan with their eyes.

Visual scanning skills help drivers judge risk and predict upcoming traffic problems.

A decline in these abilities could therefore play a large role in making people with early dementia unsafe drivers. For example, small changes in visual scanning may reduce reaction times and/or result in failure to notice important cues.