Car Accidents For Older Drivers Has Fallen Steeply Since 1997

Amidst all of the grim statistics about injuries and fatalities linked to driving errors, there is one bit of good news: today’s drivers aged 70 and older are less likely to be involved in car accidents than they were a decade ago.

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety recently released a nationwide study that looked at drivers aged 70 in the present day and in past decades. One motivation was that the elderly population has been swelling, increasing the number of older drivers on the road and stoking fears that it will lead to an increase in accidents. Yet Institute researchers found that older drivers today were less likely to be involved in crashes due to the fact that older drivers are generally getting healthier and cars are generally getting safer. Not only are seniors less likely to be in car accidents, but when they are involved, they are also less likely to suffer fatal injuries.

The Institute traced the shift back to the mid-1990s. From 1997 through 2012, the fatal crash rate per licensed driver fell 42% for older drivers and 30% for middle-aged drivers. In terms of miles traveled, fatal car crashes fell 39% for elderly drivers and 26% for middle-aged drivers between 1995 and 2008. The biggest measured decline of all was among drivers who were older than 80: their rate was nearly two times that of middle-aged drivers, as well as drivers between the ages of 70 and 74.

This is in spite of the fact that older drivers are driving more than they did in previous generations — though they still drive less frequently than middle-aged drivers. Institute researchers speculated that it could be due to older drivers feeling more mentally and physically comfortable with driving, since older drivers tend to reduce the amount of time they spend driving, or drive less after dark, if they feel their skills eroding.

The Institute’s findings should be welcome for any seniors who want to hang onto their independence for as long as possible, as well as their adult children. It is just too bad that the same cannot be said of drivers in other age categories. It is not clear why younger drivers continue to have higher rates of fatalities — other than the fact that they drive more and they may be a wider pool of drivers overall. Unfortunately, too many drivers of any age still drive carelessly, forgetting that driving is a responsibility, not a right. This includes talking or texting on cell phones, driving above the speed limit, and driving while intoxicated. Those who end up in injury accidents have the option of hiring a personal injury attorney and filing a lawsuit.

I have been representing Texans injured in accidents for over 33 years. With my main office in Fort Worth and with branch offices throughout the Metroplex and one in Houston, I only represent people who have been injured by accidents involving cars, trucks, 18 wheelers, bicycles and motorcycles — often hit by drivers who are DWI. If you want an experienced Board Certified Fort Worth personal injury attorney who will provide you with compassionate legal representation, contact my office today to schedule a free initial consultation.

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