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Florida Law Lowers Driving Deaths Among Elderly

Posted by Chrissie Cole
Monday, November 10, 2008 10:03 PM EST
Category: On The Road
Tags: Protecting Your Family, Vision Screening Law, Florida Drivers, Collision Fatalities


IMAGE SOURCE:© iStockPhoto / Vision Test / author: TPopova

A Florida law, requiring drivers 80 and older to pass a vision test for license renewal, appears to have lowered the number of driving deaths among older people.

“Older drivers represent the fastest-growing portion of the driving population,” said Gerald McGwin Jr., professor of epidemiology, at the University of Alabama at Birmingham.

“As this portion of the population expands, so have public safety concerns, given drivers’ increased rate of motor vehicle accident involvement. Earlier studies suggest this increase may be partly attributed to medical, functional and cognitive impairments.”

The death rate for drivers 80 or older declined 17 percent after the law was first passed in January 2004. But, the overall rate in the state increased 6 percent during the same time period.

Vision re-screening laws appear to be effective, but the unanswered question remains “why.”

An estimated 7 percent of Florida drivers failed to meet vision standards and were denied renewal of their drivers’ license.

Many potential reasons can account for the decline, note authors. One such reason could be that many elderly drivers felt they would fail a vision test, so they didn’t even try. Or it could be that those drivers with vision problems sought vision care to correct the problem.

The study found the overall death rates in car accidents across Florida increased non-significantly between 2001 and 2006, but showed a decrease in drivers 80 and older.

Researchers note that other studies have found little evidence to link visual acuity to involvement in car accidents, which supports vision screening laws that may result in fewer deaths.

If the law has, reduced deaths, which it appears to have done, experts must pinpoint why, they said.

The study, The Impact of a Vision Screening Law on Older Driver Fatality Rates, is published in the November 11 issue of the Archives of Ophthalmology. #

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