Sam Bauman: Seniors likely to suffer auto crashes after taking a fall
If you’re a senior and have tumbled or taken a fall of late, you might want to know what the effect is on your driving skills.
The California AAA recently released a study that reports older drivers who have a history of falling are 40 percent more likely to be involved in crashes than their peers. The study is by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety.
Falls limit older drivers’ abilities to function behind the wheel and can make driving riskier for themselves and others on the road. About 12 million older adults fall annually. This writer just today took a minor fall while picking up waste paper.
“Drivers age 60 and older are involved in 400,000 crashes each year, and it’s important that we find ways to keep them and others safe on the road,” says the AAA spokeswoman Cynthia Harris, AAA Northern California. “This research is critical because it shows we can use an older driver’s fall history to see if a driver’s fall history is at greater risk for a crash.”
“The AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety study found that falls can increase crash risk in two ways.
“Falls can result in a loss of functional ability (wrist fractures or a broken leg), which can make it difficult for older drivers to steer or brake to avoid a crash.
“Falls can increase an individual’s fear of falling, which can lead to a decrease in physical activity that weakens driving skills.
“The research suggests seniors and their families should view falls as a possible early indicator of declining physical fitness. Addressing the health issues that originally led to the fall, such as lower body weakness, poor balance, slow reaction time, certain medications, dizziness, or vision problems, can help older drivers strengthen their functional ability and lower their risk for crashing or experiencing another fall in the future.
AAA offers a variety of programs and resources to help older drivers improve their driving performance and avoid crashes. AAA recommends a driver improvement course and a low-impact fitness training program with a series of exercises for flexibility, which can help a driver who has suffered from a recent fall.
“For more information on AAA resources for older drivers, such as RoadWise online/classroom courses for senior drivers, visit http://www.SeniorDriving.AAA.com.”
This all fits the profile of us as we age. Reaction time slows, vision becomes less acute and endurance fades. Memory of ways to destinations becomes hazy. Thus, programs like those offered by AAA become valuable. Think I’ll look into them.
Medical alert systems
Seniors are usually well aware of medical alert systems to report accidents at home. Now there are mobile devices that promise to connect you for medical emergencies when you are up and about. They’re like basic cell phones and connect you with a rescue team when you’re not at home. These devices use GPS to find you. But they may not work as well in homes, where most accidents occur. And GPS may not work well indoors. And a regular cell phone can perform the same service.
If you buy one, look for a cell network that performs well. Look for easy-to-use buttons and a neck pendant or belt holder. There are fives major systems: Bay Alarm Mobile, Great Call Splash, LifeStation Mobile, Medical Guardian Premium and Mobile Help Solo. Prices range from $20 at Great Call to $50 at Medical Guardian with various fees.
Personally, I’ll stick to my iPhone for such service.
I recently invested in Chromecast, a system which copies anything on your computer or laptop to your main TV. It cost $150 for the tech to come to my house and set it up. It consists of a device which you plug into your TV, hook up to 120v, and use to play whatever you get on your laptop. I get Netflix with the app aboard. It works well when I can remember how to use it, but watching movies on my TV is not a great pleasure. If movie watching on your TV works for you, Chromecast may be worth it.
A new forum
The people at the senior center among other new programs are offering an open forum for friendly discussion and debate. It begins April 1 at 10:30 a.m., and it may be a way to find out what seniors are thinking. I’ll let you know.
Sam Bauman writes about senior affairs, among other things, for the Nevada Appeal.