The physician and the health and road safety of the elderly people
Mortality due to car knocking down is higher from 60 years of age, while the number of drivers dying in traffic accidents reaches a maximum between 20 and 35 years of age, and decreases markedly a age increases.
However, the elderly are more likely to die in the event of accident and, including pedestrians, traffic accidents in the elderly are the second most frequent cause of admission to emergency rooms.
The quality of life improvement in the elderly, the role played by transport media in individual independence, and the greatest access to them also involves a higher risk for drivers over 64 years of age implicated in accidents with victims in the road.
Symptoms interfering with driving
An elderly person can suffer several diseases that interact among each other and result in complex health conditions.
Cardiovascular disorders involve a higher risk of traffic accidents, as well as alcohol consumption underestimated in the elderly people, sleep apnea syndrome, use of drugs such as benzodiazepines, hypnotics, anxiolytics, antidepressants, antipsychotics, antihistamines hypoglycemiants, etc.
The most important cognitive element in an elderly driver to asses if the may continue driving or not is the judgment of his ability to drive. A little realistic judgment in an elderly person who does not drive safely, the refusal to accept a restriction such as driving with a companion, or the impossibility to design a plan in case he gets lost while driving, suggests that the ability to drive is doubtful.
We must be sure that the elderly driver is aware of his real capacities, particularly with respect to vision, hearing, alertness, and reflexes.
Both the anxiety and sleep disorders causes in the elderly person a significant reduction of his psychomotor capacity, that limits his skills for driving.
They adverse reactions of many drugs characterized by visual disturbances, headache, somnolence, dizziness, sedation, etc., that disturb necessarily the ability to drive, and to which the elderly person is more susceptible, are very frequent and significant.
Psychoactive drugs have harmful effects on the psychomotor function, as with analgesics narcotics, anticonvulsants, muscle relaxants, antihistamines and anticholinergics.
Mild dementia allows for living an apparently normal social and family life, but can interfere critically with the ability to drive.
Brain diseases associated with aging are related to a higher risk of dying in traffic accident.
The health of the elderly driver should be evaluated to establish with clinical and scientific criteria the real possibility of driving.
For this purpose, it is necessary to know his functional ability, the possible diseases such as hypertension, atherosclerosis, ischemic heart disease, stroke, osteoporosis, diabetes, dementia, the drugs taken, his cognitive and psychological ability, his mood and social integration.
The physician should inform the elderly person and his relatives of the risks of driving in each individual case, and advise against it when necessary for his safety and that of all.
Advice on the health and road safety of the elderly people
- It is essential to assess the health of the elderly driver to establish with clinical and scientific criteria the real possibility of driving.
- For this purpose, his functional ability, the possible diseases, including hypertension, atherosclerosis, ischemic heart disease, stroke, osteoporosis, diabetes, dementia, drugs taken, cognitive and psychological performance, mood and social integration should be known.
- The physician should inform the elderly person and his family members of the risks of driving in each individual case, and advise against it when necessary for his safety and that of all.