Older Drivers Beware: Study Finds Possible Link Between Falls and Subsequent Car Accidents

Gabriel A. Assaad
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Partner Gabriel Assaad represents victims of negligence and medical malpractice nationwide.
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Falling is a dangerous way of life for many senior citizens. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 2.5 million older people are treated in emergency settings for fall-related injuries. Additionally, over 700,000 seniors are hospitalized because of fall injuries, mostly due to hip fractures and traumatic brain injuries. These incidents often cause injuries that affect seniors' well-being and health; unfortunately, frequent falling might also increase their chances of getting into vehicle crashes.

Falling May Increase an Older Driver’s Risk of a Subsequent Car Accident

According to a AAA Foundation for Safety study designed to understand safety issues with respect to older drivers, 12 million older adults will Elderly Couple Holding Hands and Walkingexperience a fall this year, and over 400,000 will be involved in a car accident. Preliminary data from the study suggests a strong cause-and-effect relationship between falls and car accidents, but additional studies are still needed to explore that connection. The study also revealed some reasons why falls have an adverse impact on an older driver:

  • Falls may increase fear. After an older driver falls, he is more likely to fear that any activity will result in subsequent falls. Consequently, he may avoid it, and become weaker and lose coordination. This weakness could affect his ability to drive, which could cause accidents.
  • Falls can result in a loss of functional ability. When a senior falls, he might sustain some type of injury, such as fractured wrists or legs, which impacts how he operates various vehicle controls. Even after he recovers, he may not return to full mobility, and  may have trouble operating a vehicle effectively.

Understanding Why Older People Fall

One of every five falls results in a serious injury such as a hip fracture or traumatic brain injury. In fact, falls are the most common reasons for traumatic brain injuries, and more than 95 percent of hip injuries are caused by falling—usually the result of falling sideways. Older people are prone to experiencing falls for a variety of reasons, including:

  • Vision problems
  • Balance and coordination issues
  • Foot pain or inadequate footwear
  • Lower body weakness
  • Medications such as antidepressants, tranquilizers, and sedatives, which can alter coordination and balance
  • Home hazards, such as broken steps, lack of handrails, unsecured rugs, or clutter that blocks walking paths

Preventing Falls to Maintain Independence for Older Drivers

In the study, older drivers with a history of falling were 40 percent more likely to be in a motor vehicle accident than their peers who did not have a history of falling. More research is needed to determine if this holds true in the general population of older drivers, but it stands to reason that those who want to maintain their independence should work to reduce the risk of falling. Fortunately, it only takes a few easy steps:

  • Make your home safer. Remove excess clutter and other objects you could trip over, and install handrails by your steps, inside your tub, and near the toilet.
  • Get your vision checked. Visit an eye doctor at least once a year to inquire if you need prescription lenses or an update to your existing prescription.
  • Consult with your health practitioners. Your doctor can evaluate your risk of falling and offer tips on how to reduce the chances. Your pharmacist can also address any concerns you may have regarding prescription use, particularly if your medication causes drowsiness or dizziness. Taking vitamin D supplements may also make your bones stronger, thus reducing your risk of experiencing injury after a fall.

If You Are Involved in an Accident

If you are the victim of an accident and experienced injuries as a result, the attorneys of Kennedy Hodges may be able to help you receive compensation that can cover costs that are related to the accident. Schedule your free consultation by calling 855-947-0707.

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