Among older drivers, the fatal crash rate tends to increase starting around age 65 – but there are few validated tools available for predicting when an individual driver’s risk may start to increase. A new study from researchers at the University of Washington’s Harborview Injury Prevention and Research Center and Schools of Public Health and Medicine, published this week in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, explored whether cognitive test scores can be linked to higher crash risk.
The study, which analyzed data on 2,615 licensed Washington drivers over age 65, found a small correlation between crash risk and lower scores on the Cognitive Abilities Screening Instrument using item response theory, or CASI-IRT. The test measures skills such as attention, concentration, short-term memory, visual construction and judgment, all key tasks for driving.
“One take home message for older adults, their caretakers, and those of us who are approaching retirement age, is to consider access to safe walking and public transportation as a part of healthy aging,” said HIPRC’s Safe and Active Transport section lead Beth Ebel, M.D., who was a co-author on the study. “When older adults can travel, shop, work, and meet friends for lunch without needing a car, safety and quality of life goes up.”
The authors noted that more research is needed to help guide older drivers, their families and their physicians in making the decision whether to continue driving. Read more at the UW Medicine Newsroom.
The lead author on the study was Laura Fraade-Blanar, Ph.D., a recent alumna of the UW School of Public Health’s Department of Health Services and current postdoctoral fellow at the RAND Corporation.
Other co-authors of the study include University of Washington faculty Dr. Paul Crane, professor of medicine – general internal medicine and adjunct professor of health services; Dr. Eric Larson, Executive Director and Senior Investigator at the Kaiser Permanente Washington Health Research Institute Jeanne Sears, research associate professor of health services; Joanne Montgomery Endowed Professor Hilaire Thompson; Kwun Chuen Chan, associate professor in biostatistics; and . Funding for this study came from the Institute of Translational Health Sciences.