A preliminary assessment of the medical and functional factors associated with vehicle crashes by older adults

J Am Geriatr Soc. 1998 May;46(5):556-61. doi: 10.1111/j.1532-5415.1998.tb01070.x.


Objectives: To examine associations between medical and functional variables and at-fault car crashes in a cohort of older drivers.

Design: A case-control study.

Setting: A tertiary care medical center.

Participants: Older drivers (ages 55-90 years) residing in Jefferson County, Alabama (n = 174). Cases were drivers who had at least one at-fault crash in the previous 6 years; controls were crash-free during the same period.

Measurements: Self-reported medical conditions, reported and observed functional measures, and urinary drug screens. The occurrence of one or more at-fault car crashes in the 6 years preceding the 1991 assessment date represented the outcome measure.

Results: Ninety-nine older drivers experienced between one and seven at-fault vehicle crashes during the period 1985 through 1991, whereas 75 drivers did not. Logistic regression models indicated that the following variables were independently associated with crash involvement: A 40% or greater reduction in the useful field of view (OR = 6.1; 95% CI, 2.9 to 12.7; P < 0.001), black race (OR = 6.6; 95% CI, 1.7 to 26.2; P = .007), a history of falling in the previous 2 years (OR = 2.6; CI, 1.1 to 6.1; P = .025), and not taking a beta-blocking drug (OR = 4.3; CI, 1.2 to 15.0; P = .023).

Conclusions: Functional assessments, such as a comprehensive test of visual processing, a falls history, and a review of current medications may be of greater relevance than specific medical conditions in the identification of older at-risk drivers. If prospective studies determine that falling and crashing share risk factors, a unified approach to the prevention of these mobility disorders could result. The finding of an independent association of black race with at-fault crashing is in need of further clarification because of the low representation of black drivers in this sample.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Accidents, Traffic*
  • Activities of Daily Living*
  • Aged*
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Automobile Driving*
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Drug Therapy
  • Female
  • Geriatric Assessment*
  • Health Status*
  • Humans
  • Logistic Models
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Physical Examination
  • Risk Factors
  • Visual Acuity