Are We Adequately Screening For Driving Impairments and Injuries in Acworth?
It’s no surprise that car accidents can leave us debilitated in many ways; sometimes these injuries are even completely unknown to us because we may assume that they aren’t anything to be concerned about as, surely, if they were important, our doctors would have diagnosed and treated them.
And yet, not only can car accidents leave us with debilitating medical conditions, but medical conditions we develop as the result of other circumstances—such as aging or even genetics—can also increase our crash risk.
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Traumatic Brain Injuries
Individuals who suffer from traumatic brain injuries after car accidents typically have a long journey to recovery, having to relearn how to talk and walk, and wait years for their brain to fully heal. Still, individuals often find that things are never quite the same, and their lives are changed forever.
A concussion is the most common type of traumatic brain injury, and occurs when the brain suffers a trauma due to a sudden momentum change or impact. A skull fracture, brain bleeding, and/or swelling may sometimes be present, and concussions can cause diffuse axonal type injuries, resulting in temporary or even permanent damage.
Whiplash can result in the same difficulties as any head injury. And while many are familiar with whiplash injuries that result from car accidents—whiplash injuries that can cause substantial injury to your joints—not many have heard of temporomandibular joint (TMJ) disorders, which involve pain in the joints that support your jaw, and are a serious risk with auto accidents when you have suffered from whiplash injuries. Specifically, one study revealed that one in three people who are exposed to whiplash trauma are at risk of developing these chronic issues within one year after the accident.
Vision is arguably the most important sense when it comes to safe driving, and yet, with age comes disease-related changes of the eye, as well as visual acuity, fields, and other aspects of vision all affected by changes in the brain. In the same way that a physician should manage for medical conditions and medications, healthcare professionals should also manage and correct for vision deficits—including intervening for common eye diseases such as macular degeneration, cataracts, glaucoma, and any other eye diseases that have the potential to increase crash risk.
Each state has licensing requirements concerning certain sensory deprivation conditions, as well as whether bioptic driving, where a small telescopic system is used to improve driver’s distance vision. For example, in Georgia, bioptics are permitted for driving and to pass the licensure test. In addition, drivers must have visual acuity of 20/60 in either eye (with or without corrective lenses) and a visual field of 140 degrees minimum (for use of both eyes). Primary care physicians and specialists should be aware of these state requirements, and ensure that they adhere to them in treating older patients in order to ensure that those patients are safe to drive.
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Crash Risk and Cardiovascular Diseases
One study noted an increase in overall crash risk and at-fault risk for older adults with cardiac disease. Clinicians treating older adults with known cardiac disease should look for symptoms such as chest discomfort, shortness of breath, palpitations, lightheadedness, and related symptoms. No one should drive while experiencing any of these symptoms.
Dementia presents a significant challenge when it comes to safety on the roads. As the disease worsens, individuals who suffer from it will ultimately and altogether be unable to drive safely. Those suffering from the disease can also unfortunately be characterized as lacking insight into their own deficits and are thus more likely to drive even when it is dangerous to do so.
While often initially able to pass a road test during the mild stages of the disease, it is crucial that patients be tested every six to 12 months, as older adults with Alzheimer disease have been shown to eventually fail subsequent road tests. Yet neurologic disorders can pose a very specific threat, as it can be difficult to diagnose dementia and related diseases until late in the course of the disease. Initially, family members surrounding the older adult may just assume that any decline in cognitive function is a normal part of the individual’s aging process. Yet, driving cessation is a necessary step to take with any older adults suffering from dementia (along with early diagnosis and intervention).
Insurance Rates & Risking Medical Costs
Impaired driving isn’t just causing injury or costing us lives; it’s also causing our insurance rates to rise rapidly due to what the statistics say about the correlation between an increase in accidents and the incidence of impaired driving.
In addition, the cost of medical care has increased, and many of the most complicated, expensive injuries—such as spinal cord injuries—are caused by car accidents. For example, the cost of treating a spinal cord injury increased by 95 percent between 1999 and 2008 (already taking inflation into account). And that’s not even taking into account what it costs you in lost wages, expenses for rehabilitative costs, and any medical costs to address the issue for the rest of your life.
What’s The Solution?
Ultimately, healthcare professionals need an assessment approach that can accurately identify those drivers, either due to existing injuries, or the onset of disease due to older age, face an increased risk of getting into a car accident. Until there is one comprehensive way to determine driving recommendations, older drivers must be assessed on a case-by-case basis by assessing each function which is vital to driving, as well as the presence of any important medical conditions and use of any medications which can cause impairments.
Car Accident Attorney in Acworth
If you have been in an auto accident due to someone else’s negligence, and now suffer from injuries such as whiplash, TMJ disorders, a traumatic brain injury, or any of the many medical issues that can result from auto accidents, contact our law offices today for a free consultation. We’ve served clients in and around Acworth, Georgia for years, earning a reputation for trust, reliability, and experience. Contact us today.