Entries in drivers (4)


Should Elderly Drivers Need a Doctor’s Note?

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(TORONTO) -- Many older baby boomers will turn 65 this year — the largest generation of senior citizens ever to own driver’s licenses. The influx of senior drivers may make it the right time to start implementing physician-mandated screenings to check whether some are medically fit to take the wheel, say some physicians.

“The restriction of licenses throughout Canada generally occurs only after accumulation of moving violations,” Dr. Donald Redelmeier, a professor of medicine at the University of Toronto, wrote in an editorial published Monday in the Canadian Medical Association Journal.

“This approach is often too late to prevent injuries,” Redelmeier wrote.

Sixty-nine percent of Americans ages 55 and older use more than one medication that can affect their driving, according to a 2009 study by the AAA Foundation.

Graduated licensing programs that have restricted night and highway driving for young adults seem to have reduced the accident rate in both Canada and the U.S.  Redelmeier proposed similar programs for the elderly.

“The principle is to prevent trauma rather than to await a series of incidents before taking any action,” Redelmeier wrote.

But some researchers say physicians are overestimating how dangerous elderly drivers really are.

While it’s true that the older you get, the more likely you are to get in a crash, current data shows teenage drivers are far more likely to get into a crash than the elderly, according to Ezra Hauer, a professor in the department of civil engineering at the University of Toronto.

“In spite of what data show consistently, almost one-third of Canadians believe that elderly drivers are a ‘very or extremely serious traffic safety problem,’” Hauer wrote in a commentary published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal.

That perception may also apply to physicians who could be tasked to screen the elderly, he said.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Women Drivers at Greater Risk in Car Crashes, Says Study

Hemera/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- A new report by the American Journal of Public Health finds that female drivers are at a greater risk of injury or death when involved in car crashes, because seat belts and other life-saving devices installed in cars are not designed for their bodies.

The report said that on average, women are shorter, lighter, tend to sit in different positions and drive newer passenger cars when compared with men. Because of these factors, the odds of a woman sustaining an injury while wearing a seat belt were 47 percent higher than for men wearing seatbelts.

One reason safety systems are designed more for the male population is that men are three times more likely to be involved in a car crash that leads to serious or fatal injuries. In recent years, however, there has been an increase in female drivers getting into these types of accidents.

Although Clarence Ditlow of the Center for Auto Safety says that the study had the right concept, it doesn’t apply to today’s vehicles. The researchers focused on crashes (and cars) between 1998 and 2008. All of the cars used in the study were an average of six years old.

“The average life of a car is around 12 years,” said Ditlow. “The study would have a lot more value if it were limited to 2000 and later model year vehicles to make sure all vehicles had female friendly airbags,” he said. Since new 2012 models are coming out now, some of the cars used in the study are almost 20 years old.

“There wasn’t even a dynamic side impact test standard in effect in 1992,” said Ditlow.

Ditlow also said that while the study did highlight the disparity between the risks for male and female drivers, that’s something the government and industry have been working on over the past three decades.

The authors of the study said in a statement that “female motor vehicle drivers today may not be as safe as their male counterparts; therefore, the relative higher vulnerability of female drivers…when exposed to moderate and serious crashes must be taken into account.”

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio 


Study: Elderly Drivers Need More Traffic Signs

Hemera Technologies/Thinkstock(JERUSALEM) -- A new Israeli study says elderly drivers may need more traffic signs alerting them to the presence of pedestrian crossings and other potential hazards.

When drivers over 65 get behind the wheel, they're only half as likely to see pedestrians on the sidewalk as younger drivers, according to  researchers in Israel. They've concluded that the limited field of vision often found in the elderly significantly impairs their ability to detect pedestrian and other hazards while driving. Tested on a traffic simulator, they responded slower and hit the brakes 50% less than younger drivers.

To compensate, the study found the elderly drive slower -- up to 20% slower, in fact -- to give them more time to detect problems.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Elderly Drivers Balance Independence and Safety

Photo Courtesy - ABC News(NEW YORK) -- Robert Hill and his daughter Cathy Millburn are in the midst of a classically fierce clash. Like many Americans with aging parents, Millburn doesn't think it's safe for her 83-year-old father, who has Parkinson's disease, to drive anymore.

"We have a disagreement. If it doesn't go away, and I'm not able to drive, I will leave the country," said Hill. "I'll go to a country where they don't have driver's licenses. If I have to go to Nigeria, or some place like that, I'll go."

Determined to keep his independence, the retired Air Force pilot continues to drive -- behind his daughter's back -- even though he shakes and experiences occasional blackouts.

"I don't find a compelling argument from anybody that I shouldn't drive except my daughter," said Hill.

"I was in the car with him one time last year. I noticed that he did have some difficulties staying in his lane," Millburn said. "He didn't use his blinkers. He crossed over some traffic, was speeding up too fast toward the light -- a lot of little things that were kind of telltale signs."

Millburn worries not only about her father's safety but also about the other people on the road. And her fears are not unfounded.

At the MIT Age Lab in Cambridge, Mass., researchers study how age and infirmity can affect driving skills.

"You have neurological changes in the brain, which is just processing time, sending signals from one nerve to another," said Joseph Coughlin, director of the lab. "Some get slower more than others."

Making a left turn can be especially troublesome. With every year after age 65, the odds of getting into a car crash while attempting to go left increases by eight percent. With limited mobility to look in both directions, it becomes more difficult to gauge speed, distance and timing, especially when there's oncoming traffic.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

ABC News Radio