A new study from AAA said older drivers who have a history of falling are 40 percent more likely to be involved in crashes than their peers.
AAA's Foundation for Traffic Safety released the results of its study on Thursday.
It said annually, 12 million older adults experience a fall. The falls limit an older driver's ability to function behind the wheel and can make driving risky for that driver and others on the road.
“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 Amy Parmenter, AAA 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 report is part of the foundation's Longitudinal Research on Aging Driving, or LongROAD, project.
Researchers from the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus, along with the foundation, said falls increase a crash risk in two ways. They can result in a loss of functional ability, particularly with wrist fractures or broken legs. They can also increase someone's fear of falling, which leads to a decrease in physical activity and, ultimately, weakened driving skills.
The AAA Driving School offers a mature driver assessment that family members and caregivers often use to evaluate the driving capabilities of an older parent or friend.
“Driving is a sensitive subject for aging seniors who are understandably reluctant to give up the keys," said Jennifer Shorette, director of the AAA Driving School. "This research will help us to help them and keep everyone on the roads as safe as possible.”
Research suggests that falls are a possible early indicator of a decline in physical fitness.
AAA recommended a series of exercises and stretches to improve neck, shoulder, trunk, back and overall body flexibility which can help after a driver suffers a fall. For more on those exercises, click here.
For more on the Foundation for Traffic Safety's study, click here.
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