Warnings and Reporting Requirements to Reduce Medically Unfit Accident Rates
Many motorists who are under a doctor’s care or taking medication for a medical condition do not realize that it is not safe to drive. Medications often come with packaging that indicates they cause drowsiness or that the drug otherwise makes it unsafe to operate a motor vehicle.
Unfortunately, some people do not read this information or do not pay close attention to warnings provided by a pharmacist when their prescription is filled. However, a new study shows the vital role warnings by a medical professional can provide in preventing car accidents caused by health-related conditions or medications.
The recently released study found that when doctors warned patients that they were medically unfit to drive the risk of being involved in a collision was reduced by 45 percent. The results of this study suggest that physicians should warn patients with serious medical conditions, including elderly patients with age-related medical conditions that impair driving ability.
The study involved doctors in Ontario who were required to report drivers with medical conditions that made it unsafe for them to drive and to warn the patient. Approximately 10-30 percent of the patients had their driving privileges suspended based on the warnings. The car accident injury rate fell from 4.76 per thousand to 2.73 per thousand. These medical fitness warnings were particularly effective when given to patients with no car accident history.
The issue of medical fitness frequently arises in the context of elderly drivers because there is a risk of seniors developing health conditions like Alzheimer's Disease and dementia or experiencing diminished vision and hearing. However, many elderly drivers are extremely safe because they drive cautiously and rely on experience from many years behind the wheel to make sound driving decisions and to react to hazards.
The problem is that there is no consistent approach to dealing with drivers who are unfit to drive regardless of whether or not it is age-related. Various methods have been suggested to reduce the number of medically unfit drivers on the road. Some states require in-person license renewal for drivers over a certain age, though it is unclear that this is effective, while other safe driving experts have recommended that doctors have an obligation to warn and report medically unfit drivers.
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