A record 12 million older adults will experience a fall annually. 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.
“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 Jana Tidwell, Manager, Public and Government Affairs for AAA Mid-Atlantic. “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 number of Pennsylvanians age 65 and older reached more than 2.1 million in 2014, according to U.S. Census data. PennDOT reports that in 2015, 1.9 million Pennsylvanians 65 and older were licensed drivers, a number that has grown by 31 percent since 2005.
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 individual’s fear of falling, which can lead to a decrease in physical activity that weakens driving skills.
“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,” said Tidwell. “Even a low impact fitness training program or driver improvement course can help safely extend an older driver’s years on the road.”
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, visit www.SeniorDriving.AAA.com.