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Dementia & Alzheimer’s Defined – As to the California DMV


How does the DMV Define Dementia/Alzheimer’s disease?

In fulfilling its obligation to protect Public Safety, the California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) will focus upon any person it suspects suffers with any Physical or Mental condition that can affect safe driving.  One of the most aggressively investigated issues is the driver who has been diagnosed with Dementia or Alzheimer’s disease.  This is because these disorders can profoundly affect a person’s ability to safely operate a motor vehicle; and because the driver may have no clue as to the level at which they are impaired. Dementia is a general term for a decline in mental ability severe enough to interfere with daily life and therefore, clearly affects one’s ability to drive.  Alzheimer’s disease is the most common and identified form of Dementia.

Dementia is not a specific disease. It is an overall term that describes a wide range of symptoms associated with a decline in memory or other cognitive skills severe enough that a person’s ability to deal with day to day life is impacted.  Alzheimer’s disease accounts for 60 to 80 percent of diagnosed Dementia.  Vascular Dementia normally occurs following a stroke and is the second most common form of Dementia.  There are several other forms of Dementia, some of which are reversible, such as vitamin deficiencies and problems with the thyroid gland.

Many forms of dementia are progressive, meaning that symptoms begin slowly and gradually worsen over time.  Different types of Dementia are associated with particular types of damage to brain cells.  For example, in Alzheimer’s disease, high levels of certain proteins inside and outside the brain cells make it difficult for the cells to remain healthy and to communicate with one another.  The region of the brain known as the Hippocampus is the center for learning and memory and is often the first region attacked by Alzheimer’s disease.  As a result, memory loss is one of its earliest symptoms.

The DMV’s working definition of Dementia/Alzheimer’s Disease is:

Any chronic or persistent disorder of the mental processes caused by brain disease or injury and marked by memory disorders, personality changes, and impaired reasoning.

How does the DMV measure the effects of Dementia?

Remember, the staff at the Department of Motor Vehicles are not medical professionals trained in the effects of Dementia…………… not by a long shot.  Nonetheless, the DMV will make assessments and judgements based upon an arbitrary set of guidelines that may or may not be accurate for an individual driver.  When assessing a driver for their ability to operate a motor vehicle, the Department will use a graduated series of stages to estimate the impact the disorder is having on a person’s ability to drive.

The DMV will basically classify a person into one of the following categories: Mild Cognitive Impairment, Moderate Cognitive Impairment or Severe Cognitive Impairment as described below:

Mild Cognitive Impairment: A driver assessed as having mild cognitive deficits is basically able to care for their own needs.  This person is generally able to shop for themselves, live independently and care for their own personal hygiene.  Some issue of memory will become present.

Moderate Cognitive Impairment: A driver assessed as having moderate cognitive deficits will experience greater difficulty with independent living and may require some supervision.  Spatial awareness may be affected and reasoning may be impacted to a point they are unable to cope with their environment.  Perception/Reaction times may be delayed and memory deteriorates.

Severe Cognitive Impairment:  A driver assessed as having severe cognitive deficits is at the most advanced stages of the disorder. The person is no longer able to care for their own safety or hygiene.  Continual supervision is necessary and the person may become incoherent or mute.

How do I protect my privilege to drive?

We often forget that a person diagnosed with Dementia is a victim?  They have committed no crime and are not seeking to become a public nuisance.  They simply want to maintain their freedom and independence for as long as possible.  What’s wrong with that?

If you have received a “Notice of Re-Examination” or an “Order of Suspension/Revocation” because the DMV suspects you have Dementia, you must act quickly to protect yourself.

The DMV Defense Experts at California Drivers Advocates (CDA) have been representing good people who have been diagnosed with Cognitive Disorders for many years.  We know the DMV’s protocol and procedure, we know doctors who are willing to help and we have the training, skill and knowledge to keep you driving for as long as possible. Just because you may have to give up driving someday, does not mean it has to happen today.  Call CDA today.  We can help.

Call CDA Today….. Our compassionate and patient team can get you through this.

Being diagnosed with some form of Dementia can be a shattering and frightening experience for any person. To then have that compounded by the DMV suspending your driver license is further demoralizing.  Don’t let the DMV steal your privilege to drive without a fight.  There are literally thousands of people driving today with various levels of Cognitive Decline or Dementia because they were able to prove they are stable.

The DMV Defense Experts at California Drivers Advocates have been representing California drivers with Dementia for decades. We’ve seen every dirty trick played by the DMV to strip a person of their driving privilege.  Call us today and let us put together a winning strategy to beat the DMV at its own game.




Quality DMV Defense isn’t something we preach, it’s what we practice. Our team is highly trained and experienced in every facet of our industry. This means that you’re in the best possible hands and protected by a team of professionals who care.


When it comes to protecting your driving privilege, results are everything. We’ve conducted scores of DMV Administrative Hearings and our results are among the best in the State. Our goal is to win and that means you keep driving.

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