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Dementia and the capability to drive a vehicle


Registered User
Dec 19, 2014
My brother was diagnosed with alcohol related dementia (Korsakoff's syndrome) but discharged from hospital as "medically fit". The family took the decision to remove his car since every time he leaves his home he forgets where he lives. This caused him a lot of distress where he continually asks where his car is (even after being told numerous times).

Does anyone know what the legal definition of "medically fit" is in this context, can you have dementia and be medically fit? Should he be allowed to drive? There seems to be nothing official that says he can't drive. The family tried to adopt a common sense approach but will very little guidance from the medical profession. Searching the web it is suggested that the DVLA is informed so his licence is revoked but what if his condition (memory) improves, would he have to retake his test? I believe he could probably drive but suspect he would get lost every time he left home.

Any advice appreciated.


Registered User
Apr 6, 2011
North Manchester
A diagnosis of Korsakoff's syndrome means that the dvla must be informed

This does not automatically mean the licence has to be surrendered, the dvla can investigate and the person can undertake a driving assessment
https://www.rcpsych.ac.uk/pdf/Driving and Dementia final.pdf
which can take place at various centres around the UK. The licence can be revoked or a short term licence granted or (unlikely) no action taken. If the licence is revoked and the condition improves the assessment can be re-taken


Volunteer Moderator
Jul 14, 2006

The DVLA do need to be advised but it does not necessarily mean his licence will be revoked. We advised from diagnosis and my husband's licence was renewed on an annual basis for 4 years. Others on the site have continued to drive for a lot longer.

Unfortunately dementia will never improve but can stay stable for a long time for some sufferers. Erring on the side of caution is always best once getting lost comes into the equation.


Registered User
Mar 6, 2007
Wigan, Lancs
Your brother's insurers should also be informed of his diagnosis, otherwise his policy may be invalid.

Have a look at the society's factsheet Driving and Dementia. There is also a booklet which is aimed more at people with dementia, which you can download here.
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Registered User
Dec 19, 2014
Very useful information. One slight complication is that we have nothing "in writing" that says he has Korsakoffs. We were informed by a nurse that this was "probably" the cause (since the family researched it!) though the doctor's discharge letter only states "alcohol related dementia".

I'm further intrigued by the governments assumption that the person with dementia has the capability to inform the DVLA (or even be aware that they need to) the assumption being that any "carer" would inform them under threat of legal action. This in itself raises the legal definition of a "carer".

None the less this information along with the other posts is most welcome and I will fill in the appropriate forms. Thanks everyone.


Registered User
Aug 30, 2013
Does you local road safety office have any driver assessment courses?
Some do even at subsidised rates!



Registered User
Apr 3, 2014
near Folkestone
My husband drives still and has a yearly licence and driving assessment . Getting lost is not automatically a failure as long as you park up at a save place and get your baring .

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