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Education Fails to Cut Older Drivers' Crash Rates

Safety program showed no effect on actual collision rates for high-risk group

THURSDAY, March 4, 2004 (HealthDayNews) -- The risk of future collisions for high-risk, visually impaired older drivers was reduced by enrolling them in one-on-one educational safety program, says a University of Alabama at Birmingham study.

However, the program had no impact on the actual rate of collisions over the study period.

"This one-on-one program was the Cadillac version of an education program. It was tailored to each individual's needs. We don't know how we could improve the program, because it was so comprehensive -- nonetheless, it showed no effect on collision rates for this population," researcher Cynthia Owsley, a professor of ophthalmology and director of the clinical research unit, department of ophthalmology, says in a prepared statement.

She was to present the study March 4 at an American Medical Association briefing.

In one-on-one sessions, each person discussed how their visual impairment interfered with safe driving and increased their risk of collision. They later worked on strategies to avoid situations where their visual impairment affected their ability to drive.

These strategies included driving during day instead of night, driving on less busy routes, avoiding rush hour, not driving in bad weather, and using driving routes in which right turns could be used in place of left turns.

"Results of our study suggest that, on average, older drivers do embrace these new behaviors," Owsley says.

"If we are going to offer these programs, we need participants to know that there is a high probability that the program will have limited or no effect on crash risk. There's no evidence that these programs make participants safer drivers," she says.

More information

The U.S. National Institute on Aging has more about older drivers.

SOURCE: American Medical Association, news release, March 4, 2004
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