Will someone medically unfit to drive be more likely to give up driving if their doctor told them? According to a new study appearing in the New England Journal of Medicine, people who are officially warned by their doctors that they are unfit to drive have 45% fewer serious car accidents over the next year.
The study, conducted by University of Toronto researcher Donald A. Redelmeier, MD, and colleagues, concludes "Warning patients who are medically unfit to drive may reduce the risk of road crashes."
The researchers identified more than 100,000 people who received unfit-to-drive warnings. They looked at hospital records to see whether those people had been treated for automobile accident injuries in which they had been the driver -- in the three years before they were warned, and in the year after they were warned. Before getting a warning, the drivers averaged 4.76 car accident injuries per 1,000 drivers per year. In the year after the warning, the drivers averaged 2.73 crash injuries per 1,000 drivers.
However, reporting that their patient is unfit to drive hampers the doctor-patient relationship. According to the study, 29% of patients who received unfit-to-drive warnings saw less of the doctor who reported them. That includes the 10% who stopped seeing the reporting doctor altogether.
In the U.S., the American Medical Association's ethics code says doctors should assess physical or mental impairments that might affect patients' ability to drive. But doctors don't always have to report such impairments to their state Department of Motor Vehicles. In the state does not have a mandatory reporting requirement, the AMA says:
- Doctors must be able to clearly identify and document what it is that affects a patient's driving ability.
- The driver must present a clear risk to public safety.
- Before reporting, the doctor must have a "tactful but candid discussion with the patient and family," including asking the family to decide on a restricted driving schedule for the patient.
- Doctors should report patients only when there is clear evidence their advice not to drive has been ignored.
- Doctors should explain to patients their obligation to make a report, and to tell patients when they have made a report.
- Doctors should respect patient confidentiality "by ensuring that only the minimal amount of information is reported."
Someone who is medically unfit to drive not only puts them and their loved ones at risk of injuries (or death) from a car accident, but also everyone else on the road should they cause an automobile accident. Anything that can be done to minimize their risk should be taken.
Drive safely, but watch out for those who are medically unfit to do so.
Personal Injury Attorney Matthew Noyes represents those injured in car accidents, motorcycle crashes, bicycle accidents, pedestrian accidents and other types of personal injury matters. His Clearwater law firm – Perenich Caulfield Avril Noyes – is one of the oldest personal injury law firms in Pinellas County. Call Attorney Matthew Noyes now at 727-724-7853 or simply click here to schedule a free case consultation.