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Senior Driver Crash Rates Continue Dropping

IIHS study reveals older drivers’ safety rates improving.

by on Feb.21, 2014

Seniors are less likely to be involved in crashes despite the fact they are driving more often and there are more seniors on the road than ever.

There are two groups of drivers that are perceived as the most dangerous: teenagers and seniors. While teenagers don’t seem to be getting much better as drivers, seniors continue to dispel the notion that they are a problem on the roadways, according to recent data.

Senior drivers – those 70 and older – are less likely to be injured or killed in or even have a car accident than previous generations of drivers, said the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.

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Fatal crash rates among drivers aged 70 and older since 1997 have declined faster than crash rates among middle-age drivers — those aged 35 to 54 — though the pace of the declines appear to be tapering off, IIHS said.

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

The improvement is attributable to a few things, including the fact that seniors are taking better care of themselves physically, which improves response times and other traits necessary for good driving. The advent of safety technology on vehicles has also impacted the numbers.

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It’s important news as the number of Americans who are 70 and older is going to more than double by 2050 from 29 million to 64 million, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Eighty-year-olds are going to triple during the same time from 12 million to 31 million.

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Not only is the number of seniors rising, but also they’re driving more. Despite those factors, the number of annual driving-related deaths for that age group fell 31% between 1997 and 2012.

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During 1997-2012, fatal crash rates per licensed driver fell 42% for older drivers and 30% for middle-age ones. Looking at vehicle miles traveled, fatal crash involvement rates fell 39% for older drivers and 26% for middle-age ones from 1995 to 2008.

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