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When it comes to driving, seniors listen to doctors

September 27, 2012

Giving up the keys to the car can be one of the most difficult decisions for older adults and their families. Not being able to drive can hinder active senior living, but sometimes it is best for a senior's safety. It's a tough discussion to have, but new research suggest doctors may help make the process a bit easier, The Associated Press reports.

The study comes out of Canada and followed the changes after Ontario implemented a program that paid doctors a small fee to tell authorities when they suggest a patient should reconsider their place behind the wheel.

Researchers found a 45 percent decrease in accidents that sent seniors to the emergency room compared to the time before the program was implemented. Though there could be other factors playing a role, researchers suggest the urging of a medical professional could be a significant factor.

"The message from this paper is that doctors have some wisdom in knowing when to restrict drivers," Dr. Matthew Rizzo of the University of Iowa told the AP.

With approximately 35 million people over 65 on the road, safety is of the utmost importance. Though the study indicates that doctors can help identify whether a senior is fit to be on the road, there are other warning signs friends, family members and even older adults themselves can use to determine whether they should still be driving.

According to AAA, there are some questions seniors can ask themselves to figure out whether they should rethink the way they drive, whether it be avoiding the road in adverse conditions or at night. For instance, it's essential to assess one's abilities in such activities as merging with traffic and the driver's reaction time.