Young vs. Old: Who are the Safest Drivers?
By: Good2GoPublished: April 14, 2014
Who are the safest drivers?
Are seniors safer drivers than young adults? Or do young adults make better drivers than their older counterparts? It’s an age-old question that has yet to be put to rest, but the proof is in the numbers. In this post, we review the latest crash statistics on young adults and seniors to find out which age group really does have the safest drivers.
Driving statistics for seniors
Based on state level data reported to the Federal Highway Administration, there were approximately 23.1 million licensed drivers ages 70 and older in 2012. This number represents approximately 79% of the total population of adults age 70 and older and about 11% of drivers of all ages. According to the Census Bureau, it is projected that the population of people 65 and older will reach 88.5 million in 2050. The rapid growth in our senior population means more drivers over the age of 65 will be on the road. This may be cause for concern on the potential effects of traffic safety, as older adults may be slower to react to a potential crash. They may also experience more severe injuries because they tend to be frail.
However, when it comes to the actual crash rate of drivers in their 70s and older, fatal crash involvement declined per licensed driver during 1997-2012 and per vehicle mile traveled between 1995-06 and 2008 at a faster pace than the rates for drivers 35-54 years old.
In addition, senior drivers are more likely to self-limit their driving due to medical conditions such as memory or vision loss, lack of mobility, arthritis and diabetes. This involves taking fewer trips, traveling shorter distances, and/or avoiding driving at night or during bad weather conditions.
When compared to drivers of other ages, older drivers have low rates of police-reported crash involvements per capita. However, when looking at miles traveled, crash rates start to increase around age 70.
The statistics behind “per mile driven” can be skewed to show that older drivers are involved in more crashes than their younger counterparts. Seniors are overrepresented in fatal accidents because of the type of driving they do (i.e. driving fewer miles and driving in the city). However, insurance claims show that property damage liability claims and collision claims start increasing after age 65, meaning seniors are involved in crashes more often, though not as high as younger drivers.
The most common types of collisions/crashes that involve older drivers include:
- Angle crashes
- Overtaking lanes
- Merging onto intersections
- Failure to yield the right-of-way
The main driving challenge for senior citizens involves traffic areas where quick decisions need to be made such as high-speed junctions, high-speed roundabouts and slip roads onto motorways.
While the odds may seem to be against older drivers, seniors are actually seen by some as among the safest drivers on the road, as they generally do not speed or take risks, and are more likely to wear seatbelts unlike teen drivers.
Driving statistics for teenagers
Teenage drivers are risky drivers because they are inexperienced, they overestimate their driving abilities and underestimate the dangers of the road. These factors result in high crash rates and fatalities. In 2012, 2,823 teenagers between the ages of 13-19 died from crash-related injuries. These types of injuries are the leading cause of death in this age group. Among teenage drivers, crash risks are particularly high during the first months of receiving their license. A study found that teenagers’ crash and near-crash rates were nearly 4 times the rates of adults during the 18 months following licensure. When looking at per mile traveled, teenagers are more likely to be involved in a crash than all but the oldest age group of adult drivers.
But there is good news. Crash rates among teenage drivers are declining. Between 1996 and 2012, fatal crashes per population fell 74% for 16 year-olds, 64% for 17 year-olds, 56% for 18 year-olds, and 45% for 19 year-olds. During the same period, police-reported crashes per population fell 65% for 16 year-olds, 50% for 17 year-olds, 43% for 18 year-olds, and 35% for 19 year-olds.
There are various factors that have attributed to the decline in crashes such as road safety programs, increased seatbelt use, and enhanced vehicle technologies. There are also graduated licensing systems (GDL) through the United States. All 50 states and the District of Columbia have graduated licensing systems where in most jurisdictions, the policies apply only to license applicants younger than 18. There are three stages in a graduated system:
- A supervised learner’s period
- An intermediate license (granted after a young driver passes a road test, which limits driving in high-risk situations except under supervision)
- A license with full privileges
GDL systems are designed to delay full licensing while allowing teen drivers to get their initial driving experience under low-risk conditions. Research suggests that the most comprehensive of these programs are associated with reductions of fatal crashes by 38% and reductions of injuries by 40% among 16 year-old drivers.
Similar to GDL systems, 33 states and the District of Columbia have mature driving laws that contain certain licensing requirements for older drivers which include:
- Accelerated renewal frequency
- Restriction of online or mailed renewals
- Vision test
- Road test
- Reduced or waived renewal fees
So, the safest drivers are-
Seniors! Overall, adults 64 and older tend to be safer drivers than teenagers because they drive fewer miles, tend to take fewer risks, drive at reduced speeds and are more likely to wear their seatbelts. According to both the NHTSA and the IIHS, the safest drivers are between 64 and 69 years old. Data reveals that male teenage drivers are the most dangerous drivers on the road. However, when adults reach their 80s, they become riskier drivers as their visual and cognitive skills begin to fade, causing them to make more traffic mistakes. In fact, drivers 80 or older are involved in 5.5 times as many fatal crashes than middle-age drivers.
To help reduce the number of crashes and fatalities while incentivizing drivers for being safe, Good2Go offers several discount programs. These discounts will not only save you money on your car insurance, but they will also keep the roads safe for everyone. Be sure to check out our defensive driving discount, driver’s education discount and good student discount for more savings!
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