By John Salak –
There are benefits that come with age. Among them is that older drivers in general are actually some of the safest on the road both in terms of accidents and traffic-related fatalities.
The National Safety Council, for example, reports that licensed adults 65 to 74 account for 13.3 percent of all drivers but represent only 7.1 percent of drivers involved in crashes and 8.1 percent of those involved in fatal crashes.
Conversely, the youngest set of licensed drivers, 16 to 19 years old, don’t fare so well. They represent 3.6 percent of licensed drivers, but account for 9.3% of those involved in crashes and 6.3 percent of drivers in fatal crashes.
This is the “good” news when it comes to mature drivers. The bad news is that older adult drivers who suffer from attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) are significantly more likely to crash compared to younger drivers with the same disorder.
Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health reports that related incidents for these drivers include hard-braking events, self-reported traffic ticket events and crashes. Older adult drivers with ADHD, in fact, are more than twice as likely than their younger counterparts to be involved in traffic ticket events and vehicular crashes. These findings may be particularly relevant because the reported prevalence of older adults with ADHD appears to be growing.
Admittedly, ADHD is commonly considered a childhood disorder that includes symptoms such as inattentiveness, impulsivity and hyperactivity. It impacts up to 13 percent of U.S. children up to the age of 17. The disorder, however, can extend into later life, affecting an estimated 8 percent of adults—a level that may have increased in recent years with advanced diagnostics.
“Our findings suggest that effective interventions to improve the diagnosis and clinical management of ADHD among older adults are warranted to promote safe mobility and healthy aging,” suggested Yuxin Liu, MPH, the first author of the university’s paper.
In what is viewed as one of the first studies of its kind, the Columbia team examined the records of almost 3,000 active drivers aged 65 to 79 years of age during 2015 and 2017 and again almost four years later.
With various adjustments, ADHD was associated with a 7 percent increased risk of hard-braking events, a 102% increased risk of self-reported traffic ticket events, and a 74% increased risk of vehicular crashes. These findings are particularly significant as the U.S. population continues to age and a greater overall percentage of older drivers are on the road.
“There are 48 million older adult drivers in the United States. As population aging continues, this number is expected to reach 63 million in 2030,” noted Dr. Guohua Li, a Columbia professor and a senior author of the report. “Data from the landmark LongROAD project will enable us to examine the role of medical, behavioral, environmental and technological factors in driving safety during the process of aging.”