Senior woman's hand and helping handOlder drivers with a history of falling have a 40 percent higher risk of being involved in motor vehicle crashes.

But despite this increased risk, drivers ages 40 – 80 still have a lower risk of being involved in a crash than drivers in their early 20s. In fact, teen drivers cause more fatal crashes than senior drivers, according to a recent study from the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus and the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety.

The foundation noted that 12 million seniors will experience a fall. Researchers released results of a study last year that found falls among the elderly are on the rise. The findings were published in JAMA Internal Medicine.

Researchers analyzed data between 1998-2010 among seniors age 65 and over and found an 8 percent increase in falls – which translates to a relative increase of almost 30 percent.

“We expected an increase because older adults are getting older and there are more 80 and 90-year-old adults than before, but we were very surprised to find that the increase in falls was not due to the changing demography,” said lead author Christine Cigolle, M.D., M.P.H., assistant professor in the departments of Family Medicine and Internal Medicine at the University of Michigan and a research scientist at the VA Ann Arbor Healthcare System Geriatric Research, Education and Clinical Center.

Among seniors ages 65 and older, the two-year prevalence of self-reported falls increased from an estimated 28 percent in 1998 to 36 percent in 2010.

The AAA Foundation’s study found that older drivers who fell in the past face more limitations behind the wheel.

“Drivers age 60 and older are involved in more than 400,000 crashes each year, and it’s important that we find ways to keep them and others safe on the road.” said Peter Kissinger, president and CEO of the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety. “This research is critical because it shows that we can now use an older driver’s fall history to identify if they are at greater risk for a crash.”

*A version of this story appeared previously in our sister publications Claims Journal and Insurance Journal.