As our population shifts toward larger numbers of older drivers on the roads, there’s growing concern over safety. How valid is that really? The AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety published “Motor Vehicle Crashes, Injuries, and Deaths in Relation to Driver Age: United States, 1995–2010” last November. What they report may surprise you.
What the Numbers Tell Us
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration says more than 30 million drivers are at least age 65 so we have considerable data. Even with our aging population, we’ve seen a 40-percent decrease in fatal accidents involving seniors over the past 30 years.
For drivers in their mid-to-late 80s, the rate of vehicle accidents is much lower than rates among teens and people in their 20s. In fact, fatal driving accidents involving seniors have decreased by more than 40 percent during the past three decades, according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.
How Seniors Are Self-Monitoring
When more than 2,500 drivers who were at least age 65 were surveyed in three states, it was noticeable that seniors were driving less as they aged. In fact, those who were at least age 80 were twice as likely as people between 65 and 69 to avoid driving after dark and avoid going on an interstate highway. They also reduced the number of trips they drove and cut down the distance they drove.
How We Can Improve Driving Safety
Technology to help keep seniors safe on the roads has increased. The well-known AAA recommends several safety features, like special-grip steering wheels to help if you have arthritis. There are also controls to make it easier to adjust the height of the seat. You may also want to look into big dashboard buttons so you don’t overlook an important notice. There’s even a back-up camera now to help with backing and parking.
Seniors are more likely to be involved in angle collisions, merging collisions and intersection collisions. In fact, intersection crashes involving multiple vehicles made up 39 percent of the collisions involving people of age 80 or older in 2011.
Failure to yield right-of-way posed a major challenge. Seniors between the ages of 70 and 79 were particularly more likely to overestimate how much time they had to move their vehicle before it would get hit. Those over age 79 who were involved in a crash mainly didn’t see an approaching vehicle
Overall, the numbers show that recognizing your own limitations as they change is the best way to stay safe. So stay safe!