Older drivers with a history of falling are 40% more likely to be involved in vehicle crashes than their peers, according to a new study released by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety.
Falls limit an older drivers’ ability to function behind the wheel and can make driving risky for themselves and others on the road. Annually a record 12 million older adults will experience a fall.
“Drivers age 60 and older are involved in more than 400,000 crashes each year, and it’s important that we find ways to keep them and others safe on the road.” said Cynthia Harris, AAA Northern California spokesperson. “This research is critical because it shows that we can now use an older driver’s fall history to identify if they are at greater risk for a crash.”
The AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety study found that falls can increase crash risk in two ways:
* Falls can result in a loss of functional ability (i.e. wrist fractures or a broken leg), which can make it difficult for older drivers to steer or brake to avoid a crash.
* Falls can increase an individual’s fear of falling, which can lead to a decrease in physical activity that weakens driving skills.
The research suggests that seniors and their families should view falls as a possible early indicator of declining physical fitness. Addressing the health issues that originally led to the fall such as lower body weakness, poor balance, slow reaction time, certain medications, dizziness, or vision problems, can help older drivers strengthen their functional ability and lower their risk for crashing or experiencing another fall in the future.
As a leading advocate for senior driver safety, AAA also offers a variety of programs and resources to help older drivers improve their driving performance and avoid crashes. AAA recommends a driver improvement course and a low impact fitness training program with a series of exercises for flexibility, which can help a driver who has suffered from a recent fall.
For more information on AAA resources for older drivers, such as RoadWise online/classroom courses for senior drivers, visit www.SeniorDriving.AAA.com.
AAA Northern California offers a wide array of automotive, travel, insurance, DMV, financial services, and consumer discounts to more than 4.5 million members. AAA has been a leader and advocate for the safety and security of all travelers since it was founded more than 116 years ago.
NOTE: The Oakhurst office of the California Highway Patrol will hold an Age Well / Drive Smart class for seniors, 10 a.m. to noon, Thursday, March 31, at the CHP office on Highway 49. The program is designed to provide a fun, interactive, and educational experience to remind drivers how to increase safety while on the roadways.
AAA Northern California