Older drivers’ crash rates continue to drop

Older drivers’ crash rates continue to drop. (from http://www.iihs.org/iihs/sr/statusreport/article/49/1/1)

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According to the latest Status Report (Vol. 49, No.1) issued today by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, today’s older drivers are both less likely to become involved in collisions and less likely to be killed or seriously injured if they do crash.

Primary factors include better health among that generation and more advanced safety features found in their cars.

This recent study reflects a shift that began in the mid-1990’s and suggests that the growing ranks of older drivers are not increasing road risk as much as previously projected.

From their report:

The latest analysis bolsters the evidence that drivers 70 and older have enjoyed bigger declines in fatal crash rates per licensed driver and per vehicle miles traveled than drivers ages 35-54, referred to in the study as middle-age drivers, since 1997. A new finding is that progress appears to have slowed in recent years, with the biggest improvements in older drivers’ fatal crash rates relative to middle-age drivers occurring between 1997 and 2007.

The crash outlook is improving for both older and younger drivers. During 1997-2012, fatal crash rates per licensed driver fell 42 percent for older drivers and 30 percent for middle-age ones. Looking at vehicle miles traveled, fatal crash involvement rates fell 39 percent for older drivers and 26 percent for middle-age ones from 1995 to 2008. A breakdown of the results for older drivers by age group shows that fatal crash involvement rates per licensed driver fell 36 percent for drivers ages 70-74, 46 percent for drivers 75-79 and 49 percent for drivers 80 and older during 1997-2012.

There were similar declines in older drivers’ involvement rates in injury crashes that weren’t fatal during the same periods.

“This should help ease fears that aging baby boomers are a safety threat. Even crashes among the oldest drivers have been on a downswing,” says Anne McCartt, the Institute’s senior vice president for research and a co-author of the study.

At the beginning of the study period, drivers 80 and older had by far the highest fatal crash rate, at nearly twice the rate of drivers ages 35-54 and 70-74. By 2012, the fatal crash involvement rate for drivers 80 and older improved to 1.4 times the rate of the other two age groups.

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Summary

As noted at this blog site and in many published articles about older drivers, calendar-year-age is not a very good measure of driver performance.  Regular check ups with the family doctor may be the only way to fairly evaluate physical and cognitive ability as drivers age.  Additioanlly, it is quite possible that some drivers at age 70 won’t perform as well as some at age 80, etc.

The IIHS wrapped its report with the following statement:

The fact that older drivers increased their average mileage during 1997-2012 may indicate that they are remaining physically and mentally comfortable with driving tasks. When older adults reduce their trips, there’s evidence that it is often because they are self-regulating their driving in response to impairments. IIHS research has found that the more memory and physical mobility problems people develop over time, the more limits they place on their driving (Click HERE for report).

Families need to work cooperatively with older drivers to determine the best outcomes possible.  Older drivers depend on mobility, but their abilities can change quickly.

Road Safety Is Everyone’s Responsibility.

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