Doctors could play a key role in preventing
San Diego car accidents involving elderly drivers, according to a new study. It found that warning
patients that they may no longer be safe on the road could deter car crashes.
The annual rate of car accidents among patients who were warning by their
doctors decreased about 45% in the following year as compared with the
3 years before, according to researchers led by Donald Redelmeier, MD,
of Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre in Toronto. The “data suggest
that practicing physicians may be able to help prevent serious trauma
from road crashes,” the researchers concluded.
In the three years before they were deemed unfit by their doctors, patients
who subsequently received a warning were involved in 1,430 car crashes
that required emergency care. The accident rate of 4.76 crashes per 1,000
people is more than twice the rate in the general population.
In the year following medical intervention, the accident rate was significantly
lower. Patients were the drivers in 273 crashes that required an emergency
department visit, which amounted to an annual rate of 2.73 accidents per
As highlighted by
Med Page Today, the study was possible because Ontario doctors are required by law to
report a driver who is unfit to operate a motor vehicle by reason of a
condition such as alcoholism, dementia, sleep disorders, or depression
The results of the study could translate here in California, where doctors
also have a duty to report unfit drivers. Physicians are required by law
(Heath & Safety Code Section 103900) to report disorders characterized by lapses of consciousness, as well
as Alzheimer’s disease and related disorders. Additionally, they
have the discretion to report any other condition if they believe it would
affect the driver’s ability to safely operate a vehicle.