Doctor Advice about Driving Skills Can Save Lives

When doctors warn an older or medically impaired patient that he may no longer be able to drive, or give him an unfit-to-drive certification, patients are much less likely to suffer injuries in accidents.  However, while such patients are much less likely to be injured in accidents after they are declared medically unfit to drive, the certification from the doctor does seem to affect the doctor-patient relationship.

The results of a new study published in the New England Journal Of Medicine suggest that patients who received a medically unfit-to-drive warning by their physician and are ordered to curtail or stop their driving, are approximately 45% percent less likely to be involved in an accident that results in injuries.

However, not all patients who are declared medically unfit to drive take their doctor’s advice.  Many of them are outraged when their doctor suggests that they no longer drive, while others grow resentful.  In fact, the results of the study find that 30% of the patients who were declared medically unfit to drive by their doctor visited their doctor less and less in the 12 months following that warning.  Out of these, 10% did not bother visiting the doctor ever again.  Moreover, receiving a warning against driving seems to increase the risk of depression.

For doctors, delivering such advice seems to be a double-edged sword.  On the one hand, they may be doing the patient a great service by warning them that they are at a much higher risk of being injured in an accident, because of their physical condition.  On the other hand, they risk jeopardizing their relationship with the patient, and also increase the patient’s risk of depression.