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Original Research

Fitness to Drive of Psychiatric Patients

Carlos De las Cuevas Emilio J. Sanz

Published: October 15, 2008

Article Abstract

Background: Driving a motor vehicle could be central to the functional autonomy of patients with psychiatric illnesses. For patients, a driver’s license could mean independence, the ability to care for themselves, and the freedom to travel when they wish. However, both psychiatric disorders and psychiatric drug treatments can produce changes in perception, information processing and integration, and psychomotor activity that can disturb and/or interfere with the ability to drive safely.

Objective: To assess the fitness to drive of psychiatric outpatients in a sample representative of current clinical practice.

Method: Cognitive functioning and psychomotor performance of 208 consecutive psychiatric outpatients treated in a community mental health center in the Canary Islands (Spain) were assessed in different clinical situations. The LNDETER 100 battery, an electronic assessment unit-based measurement that consists of 5 screen-based tests, was used to assess concentrated attention and resistance to monotony, multiple discriminative reactions and their correctness, anticipation of speed, bimanual coordination, and the decision making process and tendency to assume risk. The study was conducted from July 2007 to September 2007.

Results: Of 208 patients, only 33 had scores compatible with the requirements of a driver’s license, and 84% failed at least 1 of the required tests. Of patients with a driver’s license who drive almost every day, 79.5% registered scores that would not allow obtaining or renewal of the license. None of the driving patients studied notified the traffic authorities that they had a psychiatric condition that may affect safe driving. No patient stopped driving, although 10% of them recognized that their ability to drive was somehow damaged.

Conclusion: Guidance on how best to formulate and deliver recommendations on driving fitness in stable psychiatric patients is lacking and much needed.

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