health

Forcing elderly drivers to do brain tests slashes car crash rates by one in ten

Forcing older drivers to take mandatory cognitive tests reduces vehicle collisions among older adults by one in 10, a study suggests.

Researchers in Japan studied the impact of a rule for retirees imposed in 2017 requiring all people over the age of 75 to take a cognitive test every five years to keep their driver’s license.

Within two years, the country saw the number of car accidents among the elderly drop by nearly 4,000. But at the same time, injuries among the over-75s on bicycles and on pavement were on the rise.

Cognition slows down as we age, decreasing reaction times to road events, such as someone running in front of a car or a vehicle applying emergency brakes, increasing the risk of collisions in older drivers.

Cognitive tests for drivers over age 75 in Japan have led to a drop in car crashes, data shows (stock image)

According to campaigners, the elderly in the US and UK account for a slightly higher rate of crashes than others by age group.

In Japan, people over 75 have had to take cognitive tests since 2017 when they renew their driver’s license.

This includes testing a driver’s memory – by letting them recall illustrations without being prompted – and perception of time – by asking for the year, month, date, day of the week and the current time.

Results are presented as ‘risk of dementia’ or ‘no risk of dementia’.

Japan requires people over 75 to renew their driver’s licenses every five years, in line with the amount of time between renewals for all adults.

In the US, laws vary widely by state, but most require older drivers to take a vision test if they want to renew their driver’s license. In the UK, drivers over the age of 70 must renew their licenses every three years – instead of the standard 10.

In the latest study, scientists at the Johns Hopkins School of Public Health in Maryland analyzed 602,885 police reports of collisions between drivers over the age of 70.

Researchers looked at reports from 2012 to 2017 — before the new restriction went into effect — and to December 2019 — for the next two years.

The results showed that there were an average of 3,670 fewer collisions among drivers over the age of 75 in the period after the tests were introduced.

Calculated as a rate among the elderly, this was a decrease from 347 accidents per year per 100,000 person-years to 299 per 100,000 – or a decrease of 14 percent.

The drop was mostly among men, with percentages dropping from 619 to 506 — an 18 percent drop. But women also saw a drop from 157 to 151 — a four percent drop.

Data for 2019 showed that there were 41 fatal collisions in Japan due to someone accidentally pressing the accelerator pedal instead of the brake. Of these, 28 (68 percent) were caused by drivers over the age of 75.

During the study, the scientists also looked at the number of injuries among pedestrians and cyclists over the age of 75.

It was not clear whether these injuries were due to older people, or because they were hit by other drivers.

Of the 196,889 reports of injuries analyzed, the results showed that they increased by an average of 959 after the rule change. This mainly concerned women (805 more injured).

The researchers suggested that the policy had resulted in fewer collisions as more people surrendered their driver’s licenses.

Led by Dr Haruhiko Inada, a postdoctoral researcher at Johns Hopkins University, they said: ‘Since about 2017, the number of older drivers voluntarily surrendering their licenses for unclear reasons has increased sharply, particularly in the oldest age groups. contributed to the reduction of accidents.

‘Cognitive screening of older drivers when renewing their driving licenses and promoting voluntary surrender of driving licenses can prevent collisions with motor vehicles.’

They suggested that men are more likely to cause car accidents than women because men are more likely to have a driver’s license when they are older.

Dr. Inada added: ‘Safety measures should be strengthened for elderly cyclists and pedestrians.

‘We also need to provide the elderly with the necessary care to prepare for giving up driving and safe, alternative means of transport.’

Japan has one of the fastest aging societies in the world – with one in five residents aged 70 or over.

It’s also a land of drivers and car enthusiasts, with nearly 80 million vehicles on the road. Keeping traffic accidents low as people age is a growing problem.

The study was published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society.

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