DWE: Driving While Elderly

Study examines relationship between driving and age

(RxWiki News) Elderly drivers have higher crash rates in non-problematic locations (such as in junctions, store fronts) than drivers from different age groups, according to a new study from the University of Granada.

David Cantón Cortés and colleagues from the University Granada designed a study to examine the links between driving and age. Although they found that drivers over 60 years of age had higher crash rates in non-problematic areas, the researchers also found that elderly drivers tend to be more cautious in attempts to compensate for their driving weaknesses. As such, elderly drivers are less likely to engage is unsafe behavior such as speeding, passing dangerous, or driving under the influence of alcohol, but they are more likely to anger other drivers with their over-cautious , slow turns and pull-outs).

The study also challenges a popular opinion: that older drivers are responsible for the majority of crashes. In fact, the researchers found that overall crash rates among drivers over the age of 60 are less than those of drivers 20 years of age and younger. However, there has been an increase in the number of crashes for drivers over 60 years in recent decades.

In further investigation of the relationship between driving and age, Cantón and colleagues found that nearly 25 percent of drivers over the age of 74 keep driving. Even though accident rates are lower among elderly drivers than among younger drivers, the injuries elderly drivers sustain after a car crash are much more serious than the injuries suffered by middle-aged or young drivers.

According to Professor Cantón, the study did not reveal that age was a contributing factor to fatal car crashes.

In light of this study's findings - and of findings from other studies that show older people are happier when they are allowed to drive - the University of Granada researchers do not support putting an age limit on driving.

In 2009, there were over 30,000 fatal car crashes in the United States, a decline from previous years. There were more than 1.5 million crashes that involved injury or death.

The University of Granada study was published in Revista Española de Geriatría y Gerontología.

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Review Date: 
February 23, 2011