Giving up driving after a dementia diagnosis

Giving up driving can be a difficult decision to make. Read our advice if you or someone you know is thinking of stopping.

Why should a person with dementia consider stopping driving?

Many people with dementia choose to stop driving because they begin to find it stressful or they lose confidence in their abilities.

A person should consider stopping driving if they:

  • get annoyed easily and frequently when driving
  • get lost even on routes they know well
  • misjudge speeds or distances
  • drift between lanes or hit kerbs
  • get very confused by roadworks
  • have minor accidents or near-misses
  • find that passengers worry about their driving.

Giving up driving can be a very difficult decision to make. A person who feels they must do this will need support and understanding from those close to them. They may feel unhappy about stopping driving if:

  • they are used to being independent
  • they have always driven their partner or family around
  • they are used to visiting friends or family or going on day trips by car
  • it means everyday tasks will get more difficult, such as shopping, going to places of worship or seeing the doctor.

However, it may be easier for a person with dementia to accept not driving if it has been their choice, rather than DVLA/DVA telling them to stop. It can also help if they have planned for the change by slowly adapting their use of the car over time.

If a person decides to give up driving, they must send a ‘Declaration of voluntary surrender’ form to DVLA (or a covering letter to DVA) along with their licence. They can download the form from GOV.UK or get one by calling DVLA (full contact details are on 'Driving and dementia – other resources').

How to support a person with dementia who has given up driving

Giving up driving is not always an easy decision for a person with dementia.

However, with plenty of support and understanding they can get used to this change and still live well.

Anyone supporting a person who has given up driving may find the following tips useful.

Recognise how the person with dementia may be feeling

Driving may have been an important part of their independence. Without it, they may lose confidence and feel unhappy.

Using public transport may also seem stressful or difficult, particularly if the person has physical problems. Cuts in public transport may also mean the services in their area are expensive or not very regular

Encourage the person to use new transport options

This will help the person feel more in control. They could find out details and timetables of local transport services, for example.

Make sure the person is getting all the travel discounts they are entitled to. Many mobility centres also offer an ‘aftercare’ service of practical local advice for people who have stopped driving.

Suggest ways for the person to manage their daily life without driving

There are many day-to-day tasks that a person can still do without driving. Other than using public transport, a person can:

  • book a taxi to go to and from the supermarket once a month or when they have larger amounts of shopping. They could set up an account with a taxi firm they trust and like, and order taxis in advance
  • get a shoppers’ bus to the supermarket and back
  • find out about local organisations that offer community transport services to help people who are older or have difficulty accessing public
  • transport to get out and about (such as Dial-a-ride)
  • ask if the hospital can help with transport for appointments
  • pay bills by direct debit so they don’t need to visit the bank or post office so often – if they’ve made someone an attorney, under a property and financial affairs LPA, this person may be able to do these things for them, or with them
  • order shopping online (if possible) for home delivery, or be helped to do so.

Point out the benefits of not driving

It may also help to point out some of the positive effects of not driving.

These include:

  • no longer having to find parking spaces or remember routes
  • less money spent on petrol, servicing, road tax and car insurance every month
  • no more stress of having to drive in busy traffic
  • the chance to meet people and chat when travelling on public transport
  • getting more exercise if they decide to walk instead.