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Seniors Who Have Fallen Previously Face Greater Crash Risks

AAA researchers recently took a close look at the correlation between older adults who had fallen in the past and the risk of them being involved in automobile accidents in comparison to those who had not fallen previously. AAA cites studies that have been conducted in the past on the subject, one of which speculates as to the reasons why older people who had fallen in the past were subject to greater crash risks. The study noted that the fall could have affected the senior driver’s functional abilities which, in turn, increased the risk of him or her being involved in an accident.

A Look at the Research

Many individuals continue to drive their own automobiles well into their senior years. For some older individuals, being able to drive shows others that they are still experiencing good health and mobility. The AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety has reviewed 15 studies as part of its long road study, which examines driving, collisions and medical problems related to drivers 65 years of age and older.

An analysis of the studies reviewed showed that falls may, in fact, increase the risk of automobile collisions or “other adverse driving outcomes.” For purposes of the studies, a fall was defined as “an event in which a person comes to rest inadvertently on the ground or floor or other lower level.”

The Ways in Which Falls Can Impact One’s Driving Ability

In its research, AAA found that falls can impact a person’s driving ability in three different ways. One way relates to physical injuries. Older drivers who have sustained physical injuries often have a limited ability to steer, depress brake or acceleration pedals or perform other important driving-related tasks.

Another way in which a senior’s ability to drive may be affected relates to a reduction in functional abilities. This can include the individual limiting his or her physical activities due to a new-found fear of falling. Ultimately, this can lead to something is known as cognitive and/or physical “deconditioning.”

The final way a senior’s driving abilities may be impacted relates to the increased sense of self-awareness when it comes to various physiological changes. Such feelings may result in the senior restricting him or herself from certain driving behaviors, like limiting driving only to daylight hours or reducing the number of miles driven daily.

The Findings

Based on the studies that AAA reviewed, older individuals have an increased risk of motor vehicle collisions after falling. More specifically, seniors who fell previously were 40 percent more likely to be involved in an automobile crash than those older individuals who had not fallen in the past. Additionally, AAA found that there was limited proof that the falls were related to crash-related injuries, hospitalizations and/or fatalities.

The evidence was inconclusive with respect to the relationship between falls and a senior’s driving difficulty, driving frequency, conditional driving avoidance and driving cessation. Ultimately, the findings indicate that fall prevention programs for older drivers may help curb motor vehicle accidents by potentially lowering the number of injuries that negatively impact one’s safe driving abilities or by mitigating one’s self-restriction of driving.

If you or someone you love has been involved in an automobile collision and you have questions or concerns, contact the Denver auto accident lawyers at Levine Law as soon as possible to discuss your legal rights and options.

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