Falls by Older Adults Linked to Auto Accidents
As we grow older, it remains important to maintain as much independence and social freedom as possible for our own well-being. This freedom relies on the ability to travel around one’s community, and new research is shedding light on some factors that hinder that ability. One study conducted at the University of Colorado and Columbia University showed that elders who suffered a fall are 40% more likely to also suffer an auto accident, while another from Saarland University in Germany raised concerns about the use of voice navigation systems by elders.
Relationship Between Falls and Driving
The study from the University of Colorado and Columbia University looked into data from 15 existing studies, focusing on individuals aged 55 or older or groups with an average age of 65 or older. This provided them a pool of nearly 47,000 adults, and the data showed a link between falls and later auto accidents. Of those adults, previous falls were implicated in 177,000 additional accidents. The detailed causes of this link were outside the scope of the study, but the researchers suggested the possibility of four factors, three direct and one indirect. Falls can cause injuries that physically limit the individual’s ability to drive safely. A fall may also cause a fear of falling again, which would limit an individual’s physical activity and reduce their health and fitness for driving. Victims of a fall may also suffer psychological changes that alter driving behavior and reduce road safety. Indirectly, the falls and the accidents may simply share common causes, such as general health or specific conditions like cataracts.
They included recommendations for reducing these risks and maintaining or reclaiming freedom. These include exercising to improve physical and mental well-being, establishing practices to improve mental functioning, and addressing health concerns that may impact driving safety. When older adults do suffer a fall, the researchers recommend getting rehabilitation to restore safe function.
Concerns About Voice Navigation
The Saarland University study compared different age groups and how they handle vocal directions. The study was broken into two roughly equal groups; the control group had an average age of 23, while the study group averaged 72 years old. The subjects were placed in a test which included a voice over speakers giving directions, some simple and others complex and unexpected, as well as a steering wheel that controlled a virtual reading. Participants were asked to assess the sentence by answering yes or no to if the statement was linguistically correct and made sense, while keeping their virtual controls in line with one set by the computer. The results suggested that older drivers should avoid using such systems, as the researchers explained, “While the younger participants showed stable behavior with both simple and more complex statements, seniors directed their full attention to resolving the linguistic inconsistencies and neglected the control of the vehicle.” This effect was more pronounced in seniors with low cognitive control.
We are learning more about how a falling accident can have devastating impacts on the life of elders, not only in terms of immediate medical concerns but future safety. At the Law Office of Salomone and Morelli, we care about falls, auto accidents, and the stages between and are available to help you or a loved one receive the justice and attention you deserve.