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States Can Reduce Deaths in Car Crashes by Vision Screening Older Drivers

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Science Daily reports that a Florida law mandating vision screening of all drivers over 80 is reducing death rates for car crashes in that age group. A correlation between vision and car crashes has not previously been established but it has been widely suspected.

Using National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and U.S. Census Bureau data, Gerald McGwin Jr., M.S., Ph.D. from the University of Alabama at Birmingham analyzed rates of car crash deaths in Florida between 2001 and 2006 and then compared that data in Alabama and Georgia that did not screen older driver’s vision.

Older drivers represent the fastest-growing segment of the driving population," the authors write as background information in the article. As this segment of the population expands, so too have public safety concerns, given older drivers’ increased rate of motor vehicle collision involvement per mile driven. Research has suggested that this increase may be partly attributed to medical, functional and cognitive impairments.

The results are impressive. Overall death rates from automobile accidents remained flat in Florida between 2001 and 2006, but decreased in drivers 80 and older. Comparing 2001 to 2003, before the law, to 2004 to 2006, after the law was enacted, the death rate among all drivers increased by 6 percent compared to a decrease by older drivers of 17%. Death rates among older drivers did not change in Alabama or Georgia during the same time period.

Other states including Hawaii with its aging population should consider enacting laws mandating vision screening for older adults.