Public Release: 

Sedentary older women who fall at greater risk for motor vehicle crashes

The Gerontological Society of America

Recent research indicates a new potential benefit to walking for exercise: safer driving. Among older women, one of the strongest risk factors for motor vehicle crashes was a history of falling in those who didn't walk for exercise, according to a study published in the March 2002 issue of the Journal of Gerontology: Medical Sciences.

The group of researchers, led by Karen L. Margolis of the Hennepin County Medical Center in Minneapolis, explains: "We found a statistically significant interaction between walking for exercise and falling in the past 12 months. The increased risk of motor vehicle crashes among women who fell was primarily restricted to the women who did not walk for exercise."

The study used motor vehicle accident data of 1,416 women aged 65 years and older for whom such data were available. One in three participants had a motor vehicle crash serious enough to generate a police report during approximately six years of follow-up.

The study identified other motor vehicle crash risk factors that can be measured in the clinical setting, such as increased age, increased weekly driving mileage, increased systolic blood pressure drop, and slower foot reaction time.

The findings of Dr. Margolis and her team on the risk factors in motor vehicle crashes among older women are important because it is estimated that by the 2020 there will be 50 million elderly persons eligible to drive in the United States.

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The Journal of Gerontology: Medical Sciences (http://www.gerontologyjournals.org) is a refereed publication of The Gerontological Society of America, the national organization of professionals in the field of aging (http://www.geron.org).

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