Banner-Physician's Guide to Assessing and Counseling Older Drivers


The science of public health and the practice of medicine are often deemed two separate entities. After all, the practice of medicine centers on the treatment of disease in the individual, while the science of public health is devoted to the prevention of disease in the population. However, physicians can actualize public health priorities through the delivery of medical care to their individual patients.

Among these priorities is the prevention of injury—one of the leading health indicators identified by the US Department of Health and Human Services’ Healthy People 2010. More than 400 Americans die each day as a result of injuries sustained from motor vehicle crashes, firearms, poisonings, suffocation, falls, fires and drowning. The risk of injury is so great that most people sustain a significant injury at some time during their lives.

This Physician’s Guide to Assessing and Counseling Older Drivers was created by the American Medical Association (AMA) with support from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) to help physicians address preventable injuries— in particular, those injuries incurred in motor vehicle crashes. Currently, motor vehicle crashes are the number one cause of injury-related deaths in the 65-74 age group. While traffic safety programs have been successful in reducing the fatality rate for drivers under the age of 65, the fatality rate for older drivers has consistently remained high. Clearly, additional efforts are needed.

Physicians are in a forefront position to address and correct this health disparity. By providing effective health care, physicians can help their patients maintain a high level of fitness, enabling them to preserve safe driving skills later in life and protecting them against serious injuries in the event of a crash. By adopting preventive practices— including the assessment and counseling strategies outlined in this guide—physicians can better identify drivers at increased risk for crashes, help them enhance their driving safety, and ease the transition to driving retirement if and when it becomes necessary.

Through the practice of medicine, physicians have the opportunity to promote the safety of their patients and of the public. The AMA and NHTSA welcome you to use the tools in this Physician’s Guide to Assessing and Counseling Older Drivers to forge a link between public health and medicine.

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