The NSW Government has announced a working party to discuss the rights and responsibilities of drivers who have been diagnosed with dementia.

The announcement follows the launch of a survey and discussion paper from Alzheimer’s Australia NSW which found many motorists did not they had a duty to notify the RTA [Roads and Traffic Authority] when they were diagnosed with dementia.

“Half the people we surveyed didn’t realise that,” said the CEO of Alzheimer’s Australia NSW, John Watkins.

“For the ones that do, the RTA then directs them back to their doctor for an assessment and the doctor will either say the person is fit to drive, is fit to drive with conditions… is unfit to drive or requires further assessment.”

The group is calling for a new testing process for people with dementia that takes into account the effects of memory loss, visual spacing and behaviour. It also wants to remove GPs from the testing process.

“You don’t want to spoil a person’s relationship with their GP,” said Mr Watkins.

“One carer said her husband blamed the doctor for losing his licence and he didn’t want to go back to him after that.

“But the last thing you want is for someone with a debilitating condition like dementia to walk away from their doctor.”

The discussion paper also said the state government must ensure that people had access to taxi subsidies or travel concessions if they were forced to give up their licence following a dementia diagnosis.

NSW Transport and Roads Minister, David Campbell said the discussion paper highlighted the fact that issues around dementia and driving were not going to go away.

“I am supportive of the discussion paper and am pleased to confirm that the RTA will work with Alzheimer’s Australia NSW on some of the recommendations,” he said.

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