Being Deemed 'Unfit to Drive' Cuts Subsequent Road Crashes

Physicians' warnings contribute to decrease in road crashes, but affect doc-patient relationship

WEDNESDAY, Sept. 26 (HealthDay News) -- Medical warnings to patients who are potentially unfit to drive correlate with a reduction in the number of road crashes in which the patient is a driver, according to a study published in the Sept. 27 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine.

Donald A. Redelmeier, M.D., from the University of Toronto, and colleagues assessed the correlation between medical warnings to patients who are potentially unfit to drive and the risk of subsequent road crashes. A total of 100,075 patients who received warnings from 6,098 physicians between April 1, 2006, and Dec. 31, 2009, were identified.

The researchers found that, during the three-year baseline interval, there were 1,430 road crashes in which the patient was a driver and presented to the emergency department. During the one-year period subsequent to the warning, there were 273 road crashes, representing an approximately 45 percent reduction in the annual rate of crashes per 1,000 patients (4.76 versus 2.73). The lower rate was seen for patients with a range of characteristics. Medical warnings also correlated with an increase in subsequent visits to the emergency department for depression and a decline in return visits to the responsible physician.

"Physicians' warnings to patients who are potentially unfit to drive may contribute to a decrease in subsequent trauma from road crashes, yet they may also exacerbate mood disorders and compromise the doctor-patient relationship," the authors write.

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