Forcing older drivers to take brain tests cuts car accident rate by one in ten

Forcing older drivers to take brain tests cuts car accident rate by one in ten
Forcing older drivers to take brain tests cuts car accident rate by one in ten

Forcing older drivers to take mandatory cognitive tests cuts the rate of vehicle crashes among older adults by one in ten, a study has found.

Researchers in Japan studied the impact of a rule on retirees imposed in 2017 that required everyone over the age of 75 to take a cognitive test every five years in order to maintain their license.

In two years, the country has recorded a drop of nearly 4,000 car accidents among the elderly. But at the same time, injuries among over-75s on bicycles and on sidewalks have increased.

Cognition slows as we age, which slows reaction times to events on the road, such as someone running in front of a car or a vehicle applying an emergency brake, which increases the risk of a collision in older drivers.

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

Older people in the US and UK account for a slightly higher proportion of crashes than others by age group, campaigners say.

In Japan, people over the age of 75 have been required to take cognitive tests when renewing their license since 2017.

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

The results are given either “at risk of dementia” or “not at risk of dementia”.

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

In the United States, laws vary widely from state to state, but most require senior drivers to take a vision test when renewing their license. In the UK, drivers over 70 must renew their license every three years, rather than the standard 10.

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

The researchers looked at reports from 2012 to 2017 – before the new restriction came into force – and up to December 2019 – covering the following two years.

The results showed there were 3,670 fewer crashes among drivers over the age of 75 on average in the period following the introduction of the tests.

Calculated as a rate in the elderly, this was a decline from 347 accidents per year per 100,000 person-years to 299 per 100,000 – a drop of 14%.

The drop was mainly in men, with rates dropping from 619 to 506, a drop of 18%. But women also saw a drop from 157 to 151 – down 4%.

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

During the study, 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 elderly people or because other drivers had hit them.

Of the 196,889 injury reports analysed, the results showed that after the rule change took effect, these increased by an average of 959. They were mainly women (805 more wounded).

The researchers suggested the policy led to fewer crashes because it led to more people giving up their permits.

Led by Dr Haruhiko Inada, a postdoctoral researcher at Johns Hopkins University, they said: “Since around 2017, the number of older drivers who have voluntarily given up their license has increased sharply for unclear reasons, particularly in older age groups, which may have contributed to the reduction in accidents.

“Cognitive screening of older drivers at license renewal and promoting voluntary surrender of licenses can prevent motor vehicle collisions.”

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

Dr Inada added: “Safety measures need to be reinforced for older cyclists and pedestrians.

“We should also provide older people with the care they need to prepare for quitting driving and safe alternative means of transportation.”

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

It is also a nation of drivers and car enthusiasts, with nearly 80 million vehicles on the road. Reducing traffic accidents as people age is a growing problem.

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

. Force drivers older do of brain tests reduce accident rate car dun on ten

. Forcing older drivers brain tests cuts car accident rate ten

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