July 27, 2011: For immediate release
Who is medically safe to drive? The presence of an illness can make even the best motorist unsafe to drive at any age. Because it is illness that affects driving skill and safety regardless of age, the medical community is well placed to help identify those patients whose driving may have declined to an unsafe level. Until recently, the family physicians have not had an effective tool to assist them in identifying drivers, because of their medical conditions, may no longer be safe.
University of Alberta researchers at The Medically At-Risk Driver Centre developed a tool, called Screen for the Identification for the Cognitively Impaired Medically At-Risk Drivers, a Modification of the DemTect (SIMARD MD). The tool is based on more than eight years of research and is available to physicians at no cost.
The Centre approached Edmonton Southside Primary Care Network (PCN) in 2006 to access clinics, physicians and patients to participate in testing SIMARD MD. As of 2010, Edmonton Southside PCN adopted the tool to provide better care for its patients.
The reason for the focus on cognitive abilities is that many illnesses can affect attention, memory, decision making, and judgment – and these abilities are needed for safe driving. Compared to drivers with illnesses which affect vision or physical abilities, patients with illnesses which affect cognitive abilities (such as a dementia) are the most difficult for the medical community to identify.
When a patient has cognitive impairment and questions still remain about driving ability and safety, family doctors and specialists can refer patients to DriveABLE. DriveABLE is not associated with the Edmonton Southside PCN. DriveABLE is a University of Alberta spinoff company, which provides a science-validated driver assessment for patients with illnesses affecting cognitive abilities. The evaluation is designed to protect the medically safe driver from being mistakenly identified as unsafe, while identifying those who are no longer safe to drive. Information about DriveABLE can be found at www.driveable.com.
More information about SIMARD MD and The Medically At-Risk Driver Centre can be found at http://www.mard.ualberta.ca/Home/index.cfm.