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Older drivers

April 26, 2010
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There was a most interesting talk-back on ABC radio last week on older drivers (you can download and listen to it here).

Some drivers were 90 and going strong (but for the first time ever, fined for speeding on the way to church!), others traversing the country alone and with supreme confidence at the age of 80+.

Callers reflected on choosing when to drive and when to consider giving it up, their potential isolation due to lack of alternative means of transport, restricted  licenses, driving refreshers, the need for women to keep up their driving skills.  A researcher at ANU in Canberra recommended that the safest position is to keep older drivers going, in fact older people are less safe as pedestrians than they are in the car. Also compared to other drivers, older drivers are just as safe.  One caller suggested that licensing should expire at a particular age but you could reapply for your license (some self-regulation here and face-saving as well).

There were some sad stories of families whose elderly parent could not accept that she should not be driving (I have driven since I was 17!!). Some kind of screening assessment is essential as it is clear that in the case of evident cognitive decline in a parent, families simply can’t tap Dad on the shoulder and tell him he is not to drive any more.

A study at ANU in Canberra to screen safe from unsafe drivers found that deterioration in vision, cognitive ability and physical function could identify those at risk for crashes before clinical identification of early stage dementia by a GP.

In the meantime how you perceive your own health and cognitive function, how you feel you are going is a good start…….

A study of nearly 2000 people 55 and over showed that performance on Posit Science programs is predictive of future at-fault crashes in older adults. Cognitive performance, in particular, is a salient predictor of subsequent crash involvement in older adults. Those who perform poorly in the training are twice as likely to crash than those who perform well.

In: Journal of the American Geriatrics Society
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