For older driv­ers, AAA re­ports his­tory of fall­ing in­creases crash risk by 40 per­cent

The Calvert Recorder - Southern Maryland Automotive Trends - - News -

Older driv­ers with a his­tory of fall­ing are 40 per­cent more likely to be in­volved in 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. These find­ings are im­por­tant since 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 Peter Kissinger, pres­i­dent and CEO of the AAA Foun­da­tion for Traf­fic Safety. “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 re­port, “As­so­ci­a­tions Be­tween Falls and Driv­ing Out­comes in Older Adults,” is the lat­est re­search re­leased in the AAA Foun­da­tion for Traf­fic Safety’s Lon­gi­tu­di­nal Re­search on Ag­ing Driv­ers (LongROAD) project. Re­searchers from the Univer­sity of Colorado An­schutz Med­i­cal Cam­pus along with the AAA Foun­da­tion for Traf­fic Safety say 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 in­di­vidu- al’s fear of fall­ing, which can lead to a de­crease in phys­i­cal ac­tiv­ity that weak­ens driv­ing skills.

“When it comes to phys­i­cal health, you ei­ther use it or lose it,” said Jake Nel­son, AAA’s Di­rec­tor of Traf­fic Safety and Ad­vo­cacy. “Falls of­ten scare peo­ple into be­ing less ac­tive, but de­creas­ing phys­i­cal ac­tiv­ity can weaken mus­cles and co­or­di­na­tion and make some­one more likely to be in a crash.”

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.

“Older driv­ers should find ac­tiv­i­ties that en­hance bal­ance, strengthen mus­cles and pro­mote flex­i­bil­ity,” Nel­son said. “Even a low im­pact fit­ness train­ing pro­gram or driver im­prove­ment course can help safely ex­tend an older driver’s years on the road.”

Fall preven­tion is a great way for older driv­ers to keep them­selves and oth­ers safe while on the road. Those con­cerned about a par­ent or other older driver should help them mon­i­tor risk fac­tors that ad­dress health con­cerns or house­hold dan­gers. AAA rec­om­mends a se­ries of ex­er­cises and stretches to im­prove neck, shoul­der, trunk, back and over­all body flex­i­bil­ity, which can help a driver who has suf­fered from a re­cent fall. 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.

For more in­for­ma­tion on AAA re­sources for older driv­ers, such as Road­Wise on­line/class­room cour­ses or other pro­grams that help seniors bet­ter “fit” with their ve­hi­cles, go to www.Se­niorDriv­ing.AAA.com.

Rec­og­niz­ing that life­style changes, along with in­no­va­tive tech­nolo­gies and med­i­cal ad­vance­ments, will have a sig­nif­i­cant im­pact on the driv­ing ex­pe­ri­ences of the baby boomer gen­er­a­tion, the AAA Foun­da­tion for Traf­fic Safety has launched a multi-year re­search pro­gram to more fully un­der­stand the driv­ing pat­terns and trends of older driv­ers in the United States. The LongROAD (Lon­gi­tu­di­nal Re­search on Ag­ing Driv­ers) Study is de­signed to gen­er­ate the largest and most com­pre­hen­sive data base about se­nior driv­ers in ex­is­tence and will sup­port in-depth stud­ies of se­nior driv­ing and mo­bil­ity to bet­ter un­der­stand risks and de­velop ef­fec­tive coun­ter­mea­sures.

Es­tab­lished by AAA in 1947, the AAA Foun­da­tion for Traf­fic Safety is a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit, pub­licly-sup­ported char­i­ta­ble ed­u­ca­tional and re­search or­ga­ni­za­tion. Ded­i­cated to sav­ing lives and re­duc­ing in­juries on our roads, the Foun­da­tion’s mis­sion is to pre­vent crashes and save lives through re­search and ed­u­ca­tion about traf­fic safety. The Foun­da­tion has funded over 300 re­search projects de­signed to dis­cover the causes of traf­fic crashes, pre­vent them and min­i­mize in­juries when they do oc­cur. Go to www.AAAFoun­da­tion.org for more in­for­ma­tion on this and other re­search.

PHOTO COURTESY OF AAA

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