Driving and Memory

How Memory Is Significant To Driving

As some point, as drivers we have all done it, getting lost. In some cases, it has happened while traveling to an unfamiliar destination or for many it has been losing our vehicle in the mall parking lot. For elder drivers, a decline in memory can mean the end of driving.

In many family situations, discussing driving with elder parents or grandparents is often a topic that is often avoided. For notable reasons, we often think of the physical attributes associated with driving including vision and hearing. We tend to avoid the mental aspect associated with driving as a topic of discussion with aging parents or grandparents as it is an uncomfortable topic.

Memory plays a significant role in terms of driving. As part of the larger brain function referred to as “executive functioning”, memory in this capacity looks after the cognitive abilities. These cognitive abilities include multi-tasking, problem-solving and even concentration. The executive functioning also oversees the aspect of becoming distracted which is significant when it comes to distractions behind the wheel. Keeping this in mind, driving and memory have a significant relationship.

Acknowledging Memory As An Important Factor of Driving

Despite our age, any decline in memory can lead to potential problems if we don’t adjust our driving behaviour. Choosing to drive without acknowledging and adjusting driving behaviour can lead to tragic results. For elder drivers, getting lost can lead to confusion and becoming distracted as a result. The event could lead to a change in focus from driving to focusing on getting back to a familiar surrounding. This holds true for not only elder drivers but drivers of all ages. For elder drivers, the desire to get back on track may overshadow the focus on driving.

According to a recent study (2015) by the Capital District Health Authority & Dalhousie University (Halifax, N.S.), 50 percent of individuals diagnosed with dementia will experience a motor vehicle accident with 5 years of diagnosis. This statistic indicates that working memory plays a significant role in driving quality. Young Drivers of Canada understands the importance of driving for the elderly. Providing continued driver education for elder drivers, inclusive of refresher courses can help to extend their driving life.

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