Elderly Drivers Crashing Less…More Fit and Better Health Care

Tuesday, February 25, 2014
(AP photo)

The myth that older drivers are more accident prone than other motorists is just that—a myth, according to a new study.


A report by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), an insurance industry-backed research organization, shows crashes involving older Americans have declined, and that seniors involved in auto accidents are coming out of them with fewer fatalities.


“That's likely because vehicles are safer and seniors are generally healthier,” the IIHS reported. “It's a marked shift that began to take hold in the mid-1990s and indicates that the growing ranks of aging drivers aren't making U.S. roads deadlier.”


That’s good news because the aging Baby Boom generation has resulted in more elderly drivers on U.S. roads.


As of 2012, adults 70 and older made up 9% of the population. But that percentage is expected to jump to 16% by 2050.


The new study, though, reveals that Baby Boomers are not a greater safety threat when it comes to driving.


“Older drivers are not only less likely to crash in recent years, they also are sharing in the benefits of newer and safer vehicles. It also helps that older people in general are more fit than in years past, with better access to emergency services and health care,” Anne McCartt, IIHS’s senior vice president for research and a coauthor of the study, said.


Even among the oldest of drivers (80 and older), the accident rate has declined, the research showed.


In 1997, drivers 80 and older were twice as likely to die in car accidents than drivers age 35-54 and 70-74.


But the 2012 figures revealed the fatal crash rate for octogenarians (and older) was down to 1.4 times the rate of the other two age groups.


Other study findings include:


Deadly crash rates per licensed driver fell 42% for older drivers and 30% for middle-age ones from 1997 to 2012.


A breakdown by age group showed fatal crash involvement rates per licensed driver dropped 36% for drivers age 70-74, 46% for drivers 75-79, and 49% for drivers 80 and older during 1997-2012.

-Noel Brinkerhoff


To Learn More:

Fit for the Road: Older Drivers' Crash Rates Continue to Drop (Insurance Institute for Highway Safety / Highway Loss Data Institute)

NHTSA Announces New 5-Year Traffic Safety Plan and Guidelines for Older Drivers and Passengers (National Highway Traffic Safety Administration)


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