Older Patients Don't Talk About Driving Ability During Medical Visits, AAA Survey Of Medical Professionals Finds

Self-Screening Tool for Seniors Opens Door to Discussion
with Healthcare Professionals About Reducing Crash Risks

(LOS ANGELES, Oct. 18, 2005) — A new survey by AAA finds that while many older medical patients willingly talk with their health care professionals about the most sensitive details of their health, seniors rarely discuss one crucial aspect of well-being with their medical providers: their ability to drive safely.

The online survey of healthcare professionals conducted by AAA and the US Bone and Joint Decade, a multi-disciplinary initiative targeting the care of people with musculoskeletal conditions, reveals that older patients rarely ask about their ability to continue driving safely during medical consultations, even though older drivers have a much higher risk of crashes and are more likely to die when in a crash than those in other age groups.

Ninety percent of the 1,030 doctors and nurses who responded to a questionnaire online reported that less than a quarter of their older patients had ever asked about their ability to remain behind the wheel safely. In fact, more than half (51 percent) said none of their older patients had ever broached the subject.

Despite the apparent hesitancy of seniors to talk about their driving ability, the overwhelming majority of doctors and nurses surveyed (84 percent) believe hospitals and doctors' offices should provide motor vehicle injury prevention information to their elderly patients. And while nearly 80 percent of respondents thought that patient education about traffic safety is "very or somewhat effective," only 23 percent reported that their health care facility provided such information.

"This survey highlights the important, but often neglected, connection between driving and health," said Carol Thorp, spokesperson for the Automobile Club of Southern California. "Car crashes are one of the top ten causes of death for people of all ages and older people are especially vulnerable to death and injury when they are in a crash. Doctors and nurses are respected sources of information so patient education is vital in helping seniors drive safely."

Nearly two-thirds (63 percent) of respondents who have treated elderly patients for motor vehicle-related injuries said their patients had been injured as the driver or a passenger in a vehicle while only eight percent of respondents indicated their patients had been injured as a pedestrian.

"As a trauma surgeon, I see first hand the impact motor vehicle crashes have on our society, especially for the elderly," said Dr. Kenneth J. Koval, MD, USBJD Board Member. "For the first time, we will be working with AAA to educate both the public and the medical profession about the importance of safe driving as an essential component of preventive medicine."

As part of National Bone and Joint Awareness Week (October 12 -20), AAA conducted the online survey with members of the U.S. Bone and Joint Decade, including the Orthopaedic Trauma Association, National Association of Orthopaedic Nurses, North American Spine Society, Ruth Jackson Orthopaedic Society, and the American Academy of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation.

AAA is teaming up with these leading medical associations to provide tools that can encourage conversations among health care providers and older patients about driving. One such tool is AAA's home-based CD-ROM AAA Roadwise Review: A Tool to Help Seniors Drive Safely Longer. This interactive computer program screens for the eight physical and mental abilities shown to be the strongest predictors of crash risk among older drivers and then provides feedback to guide the user's driving decisions.

In Southern California, the Auto Club has been working with local health care organizations to provide information on senior driver education for medical providers to share with their patients.

"A home-based self-screening tool like AAA Roadwise Review will help make older drivers aware of their strengths and limitations," said Thorp. "Armed with this information, patients can become confident and comfortable discussing ways to maintain their driving health." For more information about AAA Roadwise Review, visit www.aaa.com.

The AAA-USBJD Health Care Professionals Survey was administered between September 20 and October 1, 2005, to 1,030 physicians and nurses in an online format. The respondents reported having practiced medicine/nursing for an average of 18.5 years.

The United States Bone and Joint Decade (2002–2011) is a multi-disciplinary initiative targeting the care of people with musculoskeletal conditions, such as arthritis, back pain, childhood conditions, osteoporosis, and trauma. It focuses on improving the quality of life, as well as advancing the understanding and treatment of those conditions through research, prevention and education. For more information, visit www.usbjd.org.

The Automobile Club of Southern California, the largest affiliate of the AAA, has been serving members since 1900. Today, the Auto Club's members benefit by roadside assistance, insurance products and services, travel agency, financial products, automotive pricing, buying and financing programs, automotive testing and analysis, trip planning services and highway and transportation safety programs. Information about these products and services is available on the Auto Club's Web site at www.aaa.com.