AMA wants physicians to help older patients steer clear of driving problems

Recognizing motor vehicle injuries as a leading cause of injury-related death in adults over 65, the American Medical Association (AMA) has introduced a free Web-based educational course to help physicians address the driving safety of their older patients.

The AMA created "Medical Fitness to Drive" in collaboration with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) to help physicians identify when medical conditions may impair their patients’ ability to drive.

The AMA noted that older drivers are considerably more fragile and more likely to suffer a fatal injury in the event of a crash than their younger counterparts. Per mile driven, the fatality rate for drivers 85 years and older is nine times higher than the rate for drivers 25 to 69 years old.

“As the number of older drivers with medical conditions expands, patients and their families will often turn to physicians for guidance on safe driving,” said AMA President Peter W. Carmel, MD. “Physicians can use the tools and information contained in this course to better address safe driving practices with their patients – promoting the safety of our patients and our roads.”

The AMA encourages physicians to make driver safety a routine part of their geriatric medical services. “Medical Fitness to Drive” provides assessment tools, case studies and additional resources for physicians to better evaluate and counsel older drivers in their care. The AMA conducted a pilot study for this Web-based course; 87 percent of physicians who participated said that they learned specific techniques or tools that will enhance their practices regarding older drivers.

“Getting older shouldn’t mean the end of driving for our nation’s seniors -- but medical problems can sometimes impair an individual’s ability to drive safely,” said David Strickland, administrator of the NHTSA. “The AMA’s Web-based tool should help physicians assess patients’ capacity to operate a vehicle and help keep everyone on our roads more safe.”

For more information on older driver safety, click here.

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