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AAA Foundation study suggests that preventing falls for older drivers can make roads safer
A new study finds older drivers with a history of falling are 40 percent more likely to be involved in crashes than their peers.
The study was released by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, which notes that annually 12 million older adults 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:
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,” continued LaDoucer. “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 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. LaDoucer points out many communities in North Dakota also offer “Stepping On” workshops through the North Dakota Department of Health. The workshops address what seniors can do to help prevent falls.
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 information on AAA resources for older drivers, visit www.SeniorDriving.AAA.com.