Tool helps identify cognitively impaired drivers

July 11, 2011 | Media releases

Media release

July 27, 2011: For immediate release

Edmonton, AB – Family doctors are using a proven and free research tool, developed by the Faculty of Medicine and Dentistry at the University of Alberta, to screen for cognitively impaired drivers.

Unsafe driving is sometimes due to impairments from medical conditions, says Dr. Bonnie Dobbs, director of The Medically At-Risk Driver Centre.

“Medically impaired drivers of all ages can be a danger to themselves and other road users. For everyone’s welfare, unsafe drivers need to be identified. At the same time, drivers, who remain safe despite medical conditions, need to be allowed to drive,” said Dobbs.

Patients, who are medically unfit to drive, can be of any age. Seniors are one of the largest age demographics tested to see if they are cognitively impaired because they face more complex health issues than other age groups. It’s expected that one in every four drivers will be over 65 by 2020.

Family physicians needed a tool to assist them with determining who is medically fit to drive and as a result, Screen for the Identification for the Cognitively Impaired Medically At-Risk Drivers, a Modification of the Dem Tect (SIMARD MD) was developed. Physicians in Edmonton Southside Primary Care Network (PCN) have access to multi-disciplinary teams, including registered nurses housed in their clinics. The nurses are trained to administer the test. Last year, Edmonton Southside PCN nurses examined 978 patients using SIMARD MD.

“Our patients and families have been very thankful for SIMARD MD. The process allows them to realize that they may have to find alternative transportation for mobility to continue. It also permits us as family doctors to make objective decisions and to be proactive in sorting out driving ability issues,” says Dr. Harry Zirk, a family physician and geriatric lead for Edmonton Southside PCN.

“This test is about patient safety and preventing injuries. We want to ensure that physicians as well as patients have access to an effective tool that can help judge if a driver is healthy enough to be behind a wheel of a car,” says Doug Craig, Edmonton Southside PCN general manager.

Family doctors also have the option to refer patients to DriveABLE, which is a cost optional program that is not associated with Edmonton Southside PCN. More information about SIMARD MD and The Medically At-Risk Driver Centre can be found at http://www.mard.ualberta.ca/Home/index.cfm.