AAA Study Links Falls, Auto Accidents for Older Drivers
A recent report from the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety concludes that older drivers with a history of falling are 40 percent more likely to be involved in an auto accident than other people their age. There are several factors at play in this conclusion.
The study surmises that there are two detriments involved in the causation. First, older people who have suffered falls likely were injured, especially damaging their wrists or legs. The injuries can hinder their ability to drive because they have limited mobility in body functions used frequently when driving.
The other factor is that older people who have had several falls become hesitant to engage in physical activity for fear of another injury. This lower level of activity, in turn, can weaken muscles and reaction times, making driving more difficult and dangerous.
The foundation’s findings are particularly important because the population of older drivers is growing quickly as the baby boom generation ages. Statistics show that 400,000 people ages 60 and older are involved in accidents each year. Establishing a link between fall history and accident likelihood is vital to monitoring the safety of aging drivers.
Addressing the Situation
Families with older drivers who have suffered falls in the past must be diligent about maintaining the health and activity level of senior citizens. They should be encouraged to exercise regularly to preserve muscle strength and improve their balance and flexibility. Exercises that boost reaction time can be beneficial, and older drivers’ vision should be checked and corrected routinely. There even are driving-specific training classes for people older than 60 offered at many senior centers.
Being involved in an auto accident is traumatic for anyone, no matter his or her age. By being cognizant of risk factors and ability levels in older drivers, families can be proactive in keeping their members safe on the roads.