Are senior drivers responsible for more accidents than young drivers?
The answer is no! I often hear people make comments about senior drivers and that they shouldn’t be on the road. But interestingly enough, I don’t hear the same comments about teen and young drivers. Statistics don’t lie. While senior drivers who have caused accidents or deaths tend to grab headlines, they are, in fact, safer drivers than young drivers ages 16-21.
According to a AAA Foundation study, “Even though public perception tends to unfairly characterize seniors as a menace on the road, these findings indicate that older Americans support policies to keep themselves safe behind the wheel, making them key allies in their mission to keep driving – smarter and longer,” said Peter Kissinger, president of the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety.
The AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety is directing $12 million to Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health so researchers there can study driving behavior and health factors affecting older drivers for the next five years, tracking 3,000 senior drivers. This latest phase in the foundation’s Longitudinal Research on Aging Drivers (LongROAD) project is expected to clarify the effects of risk factors, like prescription drug use and deteriorating vision, on driving.
It is easy to understand the significant differences between the two age groups. Let’s look at the major causes of accidents among teens and younger drivers and the associated fatalities:
• Drinking and driving
• Texting while driving
• Talking on cell phones
• Not wearing seatbelts
• Driving with a car full of teens causing distractions; and
Seniors tend to drive slower and stay in the right lane. They tend to have lower incidence of drinking and driving. And most don’t text while driving. They also drive alone or with a friend or spouse, buckle up and they have experience on their side. The fact is that 90% of senior drivers have not been in an accident in the past two years. Their rate of moving violations is about 5 times lower than that of young drivers.
Because 25% of all drivers will be 65+ by 2025, and 1 in 6 are now senior drivers, the insurance industry, AAA and the CDC (Centers for Disease Control) are studying the needs of older drivers and the need for further legislation for older drivers renewing their licenses. Surprisingly, 7 out of 10 seniors 65+ welcome scrutiny of their driving skills; and 80% of drivers over 75 support policies that would require renewing their licenses in person and enhanced medical screening.
In 2012, there were 1855 motor vehicle deaths by male teens (68%) and 965 fatalities by female teens. Teens are responsible for 8% of motor vehicle deaths and are four times as likely to be in an accident as adult drivers. Seniors are the second most likely group to die in an auto accident. In the 60-74 age group, typical of most adults, 51% use a cell phone while driving but in the age 75+ group, only 31 percent use a cell phone while driving and 65% report they’ve never used a cell phone while driving.
While there is legislation in Massachusetts that teenage drivers cannot talk on their cell phones while driving and texting while driving has been outlawed, senior drivers are the most cautious drivers and the AAA Foundation found that older drivers make safety a priority. Seniors may require more patience on the road, especially when you’re behind a senior who is driving slowly. Please keep in mind that driving equals independence for seniors…and we’ll all be there one day!
The occupational therapy industry has come up with programs to evaluate senior drivers and suggest modifications to make driving safer. AAA offers driving refresher courses for seniors. Next time you see a senior driving slowly and cautiously, please be patient. At Jaffarian, we welcome drivers of all ages and treat everyone with the same level of respect.
P.S. Congratulations to the world champion New England Patriots. Toyota’s commercials produced for the Super Bowl (reviewed in last week’s Ask Gary blog) were rated among the Top 10 of Super Bowl commercials!