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July 2, 1997

Safety and Mobility of the Older DriverA Research Challenge

Author Affiliations

From the Department of Preventive Medicine, Vanderbilt University School of Medicine, Nashville, Tenn.

JAMA. 1997;278(1):66-67. doi:10.1001/jama.1997.03550010080045

Driving safety in the United States has substantially improved during the past 4 decades. The annual rate of traffic fatalities has decreased from 7.59 per 100 million miles driven in 1950 to 2.15 by 1990.1 This greater than 3-fold reduction has largely been attributable to the twin strategies of improving vehicle safety, such as better occupant crash protection systems, and reducing behavioral risk factors, such as alcohol use. However, it now may be time for a paradigm shift in safety policy, given the looming collision between what appears to be an irresistible force and an immovable object. The irresistible force is the rapid growth in the number of older drivers,2 who are more likely to have age-related functional impairments that may compromise driving safety. The immovable object is the nearly universal reliance on driving for mobility in the United States. One can foresee growing ranks of older persons