Some of the same things that impact falls risk can put older adults at higher risk for car crashes. In fact, a study from the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety found that older adults that drive and have a history of falls are 40% higher risk of being in car crashes, compared to older adults without a history of falls. This Older Driver Safety Awareness Week (December 4-8, 2023), we want to talk about the link between falls and car crash risk.
Falls can increase crash risk by causing injuries like wrist fractures or broken legs that can make it hard for older adults to steer or brake to avoid a crash. Falls also can cause people to become fearful of falling, which can lead to a decrease in physical activity, and in turn, weaken driving skills.
Other risk factors for older adult falls and car crashes include age-related vision changes, medications that impair judgement or affect reflexes or alertness, and some medical conditions or diseases.
To stay safe while on the road, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has a few suggestions:
- Always wear a seat belt, whether you are the driver or a passenger.
- Don’t drive while impaired by alcohol or other substances, including medications.
- Drive during safe conditions – when the weather is good and during daylight.
- Regularly participate in physical activity to increase strength.
- Get your eyes checked annually.
- Avoid distractions – turn the radio down and don’t use your phone or eat while driving.
- Know and plan a safe route to and from your destination.
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), the decision to stop driving should never be based on age alone, rather by assessing and addressing the risk factors listed above and adjusting your driving habits or choosing other ways to get around. In addition, there are ways that cars may be modified with assistive devices or technologies to help keep yourself, and other drivers and pedestrians, safe. More information can be found on NHTSA’s website.
To stay safe on the road, find more information about ways to reduce your risk of falling at FallsFreeWI.org.