The AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety recently conducted a study that indicates that falls increase car accident risk for senior drivers. The research determined that a history of falls increased a senior driver’s risk of being in a crash 40 percent over their peers. Unfortunately, every year, nearly 12 million older Americans will experience a fall.
According to the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety president and CEO Peter Kissinger, over 400,000 collisions annually are contributed to drivers ages 60 and older. Being able to associate an individual’s history of falls with their propensity for car accidents could save lives.
The Foundation’s report entitled, Associations Between Falls and Driving Outcomes in Older Adults, is the most recent component in their Longitudinal Research on Aging Drivers (LongROAD) project. In conjunction with researchers from the University of Colorado Anschtz Medical Campus, the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety has determined that falls may heighten the risk for car accidents in two forms:
- A loss in functional ability can be brought on by fall injuries, such as fractured wrists or broken legs, making it more challenging for senior drivers to navigate a vehicle and avoid crashes.
- An individual who has fallen, may fear falling again and consequently engage if fewer physical activities. This will eventually weaken their driving skills.
Jake Nelson, the AAA’s director of safety and advocacy says that exercise and daily activity is integral to maintaining physical health. Decreased physical activity may lead to more car accidents by weakening muscles.
Therefore, falls should be regarded by seniors and their loved ones as preliminary warnings of waning physical fitness. The functional ability of older drivers can be addressed by examining underlying health issues, including poor balance, slower reaction times, vision problems, dizziness, decreased lower body strength, and certain medications.
Driver improvement courses or suitable fitness training programs can help compensate for these issues and help prevent falls, thus extending the number of years older drivers can safely keep driving. Stretches and exercises that improve general flexibility are recommended by the AAA.
A driving evaluation is one of the most efficient means of ascertaining a driver’s proficiency behind the wheel. Several resources and programs are available through the AAA to assist older drivers in boosting their driving prowess.
The AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety has formulated a comprehensive plan for gathering information on older drivers that will consider how medical and technological advancements, as well as lifestyle changes affect driving performance and safety. Their LongROAD study aims to understand how falls affect accident risk, and develop countermeasures to effectively combat those risks.
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