NEW YORK DAILY NEWS
Thursday, March 24, 2016, 12:27 PM
Seniors with a history of falling at home are 40% more likely to be involved in car crashes than their peers, according to a new study by AAA released Thursday.
The report notes older drivers who tumble can lose some of their ability to handle their car due to bone fractures or other injuries.
Seniors who fall are also more fearful of wiping out again, which can lead to a drop in physical activity that weakens their driving skills.
“Drivers age 60 and older are involved in more than 400,000 crashes each year,” said AAA Northeast region spokesman Robert Sinclair. “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 vehicle crash.”
The report, “Associations Between Falls and Driving Outcomes in Older Adults,” points out that 12 million older adults fall each year.
AAA researchers hope the report encourages family members to take notice after a loved one falls.
Many seniors look at driving as a last vestige of freedom — and “driving retirement” can be harmful to their health.
The falls are frequently due to lower body weakness, poor balance, slow reaction time, medications, dizziness or vision issues. In order to lower the risk of car accidents, the seniors should strengthen their functional ability before getting back behind the wheel, the report said.
AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety researchers used studies that focused on people 55 years or older or of drivers with a mean age of at least 65 years as the basis for the 48-page paper.
The study highlights that many seniors rely heavily on their ability to drive and are frequently reluctant to give that up.
“Driving retirement – the transition from driving to other forms of transportation – is inevitable for most older adults, given data showing that both men and women outlive their safe driving by seven to 10 years,” they write. “However, many older drivers have strong emotional attachments to driving. Driving retirement has been linked to a number of negative health outcomes, including depression, earlier institutionalization, and even early death.”