Study: Traffic Safety Improving For Elderly Drivers In The U.S.

Everyone seems to have an opinion about traffic and road safety. And more often than not, these opinions are critical. When it comes to bad-mouthing other drivers, two groups of drivers are perhaps more often maligned than any other: newly licensed teenagers and elderly drivers.

Criticism of these groups is not entirely subjective. Statistics show that car accident rates tend to be higher among teens and the elderly than among drivers somewhere in the middle. With so many members of the large “Baby Boom” population now entering their golden years and keeping their licenses, it would be reasonable to expect accident fatality rates to rise as well. But according to a recent report from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, the opposite trend is actually occurring.

The IIHS report says that since the mid 1990s, accident fatality rates have been declining significantly among drivers ages 70 and older. Although U.S. car accident fatalities have been declining overall in recent decades, older drivers have shown greater declines than middle-aged and younger motorists.

One of the reasons that fatality rates have historically been so high among elderly drivers is that they are generally less physically resilient than their younger counterparts. As such, injurious accidents are more likely to prove fatal among older drivers.

But as the overall health of America’s elderly population has improved, accident fatality rates have gone down. Some also attribute the decline to the fact that overall safety in motor vehicles has improved in recent decades.

There are currently about 29 million people in the U.S. who are age 70 or older. That number is expected to more than double by the year 2050. For the sake of all drivers young and old, we must hope that current safety trends continue.

Source: Insurance Journal, "Grandpa and Grandma Much Safer Behind the Wheel Than Predicted," Joan Lowy, Feb. 25, 2014

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