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James McKillop publishes booklet on driving with dementia

Tuesday 02 August 2016

Dr James McKillop has recently published a booklet on “Driving and Dementia -My Experiences”. He has kindly consented to us reproducing the opening lines of the booklet for this newsletter:

“I am a person who lives with dementia and I want to share my experience of giving up driving because I think it will help other people with dementia who have to do the same.

Once you have passed your driving test, the law assumes you are able to drive unless you are disqualified for some traffic offences, or are judged no longer able to drive safely, due to certain illnesses, dementia being one.

(Note that ‘driving’ includes the use of motorbikes and scooters.)

My dementia did cause me to have driving problems, among other difficulties, such as attempting to drive down the wrong side of a dual carriageway several times. I was positioned to turn right, indicating, ready to proceed, and it was only due to oncoming drivers flashing their headlights at me, that I was prevented from making that potentially fatal manoeuvre. Had they not come along at that time, I would have been off down the wrong side. I couldn’t understand where I had gone wrong.

When the average person hits problems, they devise ways to get round them. I was no different. I was also having trouble at roundabouts. When I approached and read the directions, I would forget in an instant where I had to go. I used to circle several times, feeling more and more dizzy and still take the wrong exit in panic. I began to take the first left and, if it was not the correct road, I would do a U turn and return to the roundabout, then take the next left and repeat the process until I reached the exit I wanted. It was a laborious, but safe, way of getting through roundabouts. This worked well until one day I turned left, and came to another roundabout. After that, I steered clear of strange roundabouts, and stuck to local routes.

I also started stalling the car, a thing I had never done since my early “L” plate days. My clutch control was haywire. I blamed the clutch and had it replaced. But I still stalled the car and grumbled that the garage had done a poor job. I hit kerbs (curbs) when turning corners, and I just couldn’t fathom out what on earth was going on. Having been a keen cyclist, I knew how to turn a corner and I never hit a corner when I held a provisional licence. I did report my driving problems to my doctor, who advised me, to stick to roads I knew very well.”

Dr McKillop continues this open and honest account of his driving experiences, delving into areas such as insurance, the effects of medication, licence renewal, passengers and alternatives to driving.

The booklet is available for free download here: