Doctors could prevent auto collisions caused by elderly drivers
Should elderly drivers be required to undergo medical screening in order to keep their license? A recent study found that when physicians warned a patient that they were potentially unfit to drive, they were less likely to be involved in a car collision within the next year.
The annual rate of car accidents requiring emergency care among such patients fell about 45% in the year following the warning when compared with the 3 years before. While there was no significant change in the rate of accidents involving elderly pedestrians or passengers, the physician's warning did appear to decrease the number of crashes in which the patient was driving.
The researchers identified 100,075 patients in the province of Ontario who received a medical warning that they may be unfit to drive from a total of 6,098 doctors. An estimated 10-30% of the warnings resulted in suspension of the patient's driver's license, although not all of the suspended drivers stopped driving.
Donald Redelmeier, MD, of Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre in Toronto, led the study. He and his colleagues concluded the "Data suggest that practicing physicians may be able to help prevent serious trauma from road crashes." The results were published in the September issue of the New England Journal of Medicine.
Redelmeier DA, et al. "Physicians' warnings for unfit drivers and the risk of trauma from road crashes." New England Journal of Medicine 2012; 367: 1228-1236.