Older drivers who experience falls may be at a higher risk for car crashes

September 13, 2017

As we age, our ability to drive may help us live independently, shop for ourselves, and maintain social connections. Although car crash rates are low among older adults and are declining, older adults do still have higher rates of fatal crashes. Falls, which are a common and preventable cause of injury among older adults, may lower our ability to drive safely.

Experts believe that are related to driving in four ways:

  • They can cause physical injury that limits mobility (our ability to move) and interferes with driving performance.
  • Falling can increase the fear of falling, which leads to a reduction in . Reduced physical activity can weaken our physical strength, which also could reduce fitness for driving.
  • Falls can affect an older adult's mental well-being, making them more fearful and leading to changes in driving behaviors.
  • Falls and difficulty driving may be caused by common factors, such as vision problems.

A research team created a study to see whether falls were related to driving risks and behaviors among . Their study was published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society.

To test their theory that falls are related to car crashes, crash-related injuries, and changes in driving performance, the researchers reviewed 15 studies of driving behavior among older adults involving nearly 47,000 people.

The researchers learned that older adults who had fallen were 40 percent more likely to experience a car crash after their fall than older adults who had not fallen.

Based on estimates of car crashes involving and older adults who fall, falls—or the things that cause falls and crashes—accounted for more than 177,000 additional car crashes each year.

Researchers also learned that falls may be an independent factor impairing an older adult's ability to drive safely, suggesting that some might be caused by the falls themselves - regardless of the driver's underlying health and functioning.

The researchers suggested that taking steps to reduce the conditions that contribute to both falls and could reduce the occurrence of both. Some strategies for doing so include:

  • Cataract surgery (a type of eye surgery that helps address cloudy vision)
  • Exercise to improve physical and mental well-being
  • Efforts to improve mental function

The researchers also suggested that for older adults who fall, post-fall rehabilitation might help improve functional ability and enable them to drive more safely.

Explore further: Tai chi may help prevent falls in older and at-risk adults

More information: Kenneth A. Scott et al, Associations Between Falls and Driving Outcomes in Older Adults: Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis, Journal of the American Geriatrics Society (2017). DOI: 10.1111/jgs.15047

Related Stories

Tai chi may help prevent falls in older and at-risk adults

July 24, 2017
An analysis of published studies indicates that tai chi may help reduce the number of falls in both the older adult population and at-risk adults. The findings, which are published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics ...

Slow processing speed predicts falls in elderly

April 20, 2017
(HealthDay)—Slow processing speed predicts future falls in older adults with a history of falls, according to a study published online April 8 in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society.

Emergency department visits not a catalyst for falls prevention activities

August 8, 2017
Adults age 65 and older who go to the emergency department (ED) for a fall-related injury are not likely to participate in a fall prevention program after being discharged, despite being given a flyer for a local program ...

Can older adults with dementia continue to drive? More study is needed

October 5, 2016
How do you know when it's time for an older adult with mild dementia to stop driving? Dementia is a general term for a decline in mental ability severe enough to interfere with daily life. It can impact a person's ability ...

The right shoes can help prevent falls

August 10, 2017
(HealthDay)—Falls are the leading cause of death among people 65 and older, government surveys show. More than 2.8 million adults were treated in the emergency room and 27,000 people died from falls in 2014, the most recent ...

Study finds need for educating older adults on outdoor fall prevention

May 19, 2017
Many older adults have fallen outdoors but lack an understanding of the risks for falling and how to prevent them, warranting efforts for outdoor fall prevention, finds a new study by New York University researchers.

Recommended for you

Study suggests link between youth football and later-life emotional, behavioral impairment

September 19, 2017
A new study has found an association between participation in youth tackle football before age 12 and impaired mood and behavior later in life. The study appears in Nature's Translational Psychiatry.

Self-confidence affected by teammates, study finds

September 19, 2017
A person's confidence in their own ability varies significantly depending on who is in their team, according to new research from the University of Stirling.

Teens are growing up more slowly today than they did in past decades

September 19, 2017
Many people believe that teenagers today grow up faster than they used to, while others argue that today's youth are growing up more slowly, perhaps due to overprotection by their parents. A new study explored this issue ...

Video game boosts sex health IQ and attitudes in minority teens

September 18, 2017
A videogame designed by Yale researchers to promote health and reduce risky behavior in teens improves sexual health knowledge and attitudes among minority youth, according to a new study. The findings validate the value ...

Two Americas: Seniors are getting healthier but most gains go to high-income whites

September 18, 2017
Older Americans report feeling dramatically healthier than they did 14 years ago but that good health isn't evenly distributed, with much of the gain going to the wealthiest, most highly educated and whites.

Budget cigarettes linked to higher infant mortality rates in EU countries

September 18, 2017
Scientists already know that high cigarette prices reduce smoking rates, and that levels of smoking affect infant mortality. However until now, there have been no studies to explore the link between cigarette price differentials ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.