Seniors Driving Safer Than Ever, Really?

This is great news. All along we have been under the impression that as we get older we are more likely to get into an accident. If we continue to drive into our 70’s and 80’s we were more likely to be involved in crashes and that we should not let our elderly drive or they should be retested.  I myself have always believed that premise and have been pushing for seniors to be retested every 5 years after they reach 75 years of age.

Well call me uninformed!  New research released by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety has come out and said that we were wrong. That even as our older driver population has increased, “drivers aged 70 and older are less likely to be involved in crashes than previous generations and are less likely to be killed or seriously injured if they do crash”. The reason for this is being attributed to seniors being healthier and that cars are safer than ever.  Traffic fatalities and accident rates overall are down to their lowest levels since the 1940’s, but what is more surprising is that older drivers have the biggest decline. This is based on fatal crash rates per diver and per-vehicle miles driven, than middle-age drivers, defined in the study as ages 35-54 (Newsday Feb 2014).  More numbers proof, “from 1997 to 2012, fatal crash rates per licensed driver fell 42% for older drivers and 30% for middle-age ones”.  The biggest shocker of all is that drivers 80 and over had the biggest decline, more than twice that of middle-age drivers and drivers ages 70-74.

My take, this is great news but I do not believe it shows the whole story.  Have you ever been on the road and the speed limit is 45 and someone is driving 35 or the driver is turning really slow at an intersection or getting out of a driveway. Most of the time, in my experience it is an elderly person who may be going slow so they feel comfortable but the person behind them may lose patients and now, Huston we have a problem.  That person may want to go around them or start to tailgate.  What I am saying is, in my opinion it’s the driver that’s going slow that may cause someone else to react in a way that the other drivers around them will get into an accident. I would love someone to do a survey about that. I know I am being cynical but I really believe that when someone drivers extremely cautious that can be a major reason for others to react poorly and get into an accident. It is a fact that when you take a road test you will fail if go too slow or are overly cautious because you lack confidence.  This may be the same issue.

I still believe in some type of mandatory driving course every number of years for everyone (not just the defensive driving classes that people take just to save money on insurance or to get points off their license). We need to retrain ourselves as our driving habits change to our age and environment.  We slow down as we get older. The young need to know this to be patient and the elderly need to compensate on the road. Maybe drive a little faster or pull over is there is someone trying to pass.

Either way I want to congratulate out senior drivers for a job well done.  I feel better about getting older myself. Now where did I put those keys again????

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