Older adults who suffer falls at higher risk for vehicle crash: study

senior woman driving

Photo: David Sucsy/iStockphoto

Washington – Older drivers who have suffered a fall have a 40 percent higher risk of being in a motor vehicle crash than older drivers who have not fallen, according to a study from the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety.

As part of the study, researchers from the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus reviewed 15 studies about falls and driving behavior among drivers 55 and older.

Falls can lead to broken bones or other losses of functional ability that make it more challenging for older drivers to brake or steer, the foundation states in a press release. Statistics show that each year, 12 million older adults fall and more than 400,000 older drivers are involved in a motor vehicle crash. Older adults who have fallen also may be at an increased risk of being injured in a motor vehicle crash, according to the study.

Older adults and their families can regard falls as a sign of diminishing physical fitness, the foundation states. Focusing on issues that resulted in a fall – such as poor balance, vision issues or dizziness – can help older drivers lower their risk for a crash or another fall. The foundation recommends exercises and stretches for the shoulders, feet and other body parts to improve flexibility.

According to the report, “low-impact fitness training” and driving classes can help:

  • Improve balance and flexibility
  • Make muscles stronger
  • Keep drivers safe and driving longer

“When it comes to physical health, you either use it or lose it,” Jake Nelson, AAA’s director of traffic safety and advocacy, said in the release. “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.”

Post a comment to this article

Safety+Health welcomes comments that promote respectful dialogue. Please stay on topic. Comments that contain personal attacks, profanity or abusive language – or those aggressively promoting products or services – will be removed. We reserve the right to determine which comments violate our comment policy. (Anonymous comments are welcome; merely skip the “name” field in the comment box. An email address is required but will not be included with your comment.)