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Carolina Traffic Crashes and Older Drivers: Report Examines Aging Population’s Driving Risks

As the baby boomers age, there are many coming changes to society. One such change is that the population of licensed drivers is getting older. This has been cause for great concern among many experts because older drivers are often seen as more likely to become involved in accidents as their reflexes and abilities diminish and they continue to drive past their prime.

Our Greenville auto accident attorneys are taking a look at some recent data that suggests concerns about the aging driver population may be unfounded. While this data shows that the roads may not become more dangerous because of older drivers, we also want to remind every senior and everyone with older relatives that it is important to be watchful for indications that driving is no longer safe for their older loved one.The Changing Mix of Drivers In the Population
The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety has provided some information on the population of licensed drivers and on how this population will change as baby boomers age. According to their recent status report, the population of individuals in the U.S. who are old enough to legally drive (those over 15) is growing. This population will grow by almost 1/5 between 2010 and 2030. This doesn’t necessarily mean the population of drivers will grow — just that the population of eligible drivers (those who could get a license if they want) will grow.

When examining this population of potential drivers, the eligible individuals are divided by age group. For example, data is available showing how many licensed drivers are between the ages of 15 and 19; 20 and 24; and so on, increasing in five year increments. According to the IIHS report, the percentage of people in each of these five-year age groups is decreasing for every age group except for the 65-69 age group; the 70-74 age group; the 75-79 age group; the 80-84 age group and the 85+ group. In other words, the percentage of people between ages 15-19 is declining; the percentage of people between ages 20-24 is declining and so on up until age 65.

Because of this shift, the percentage of the driving population that is 65 or older is expected to be larger than ever. This is a concern because the rate of insurance claims and the rate of fatal crashes both increase once a driver is older. In fact:

  • Although teens ages 15-19 have a disproportionately high number of insurance claims, the percentage of insurance claims declines for every five year group after a person turns 20, until the 65-69 group when it begins to increase again.
  • The rates of fatal crash per mile go up among drivers ages 70 and up.

While these statistics seem to indicate cause for alarm, the fact is that IIHS claims the data doesn’t show reason for concern. This is because, according to IIHS, the rates of fatal crashes among those 70 and older is falling and has declined faster than the rate of fatal accidents among other age groups. Between 1997-2008, for example, the rate of fatal wrecks among drivers ages 70+ fell 30 percent. Further, the rate of insurance claims per 100 vehicles is expected to hold steady at between 6.12 and 6.16 claims even as the driving population ages.

Avoiding Wrecks and Keeping Seniors Safe
These statistics are good news, but of course statistics look at data in the aggregate. In individual cases, seniors could still be at greater risk of a crash if their physical or mental abilities begin to decline and they continue driving. As such, family members should be watchful of any indication that an elderly driver has lost the ability to drive safely, and seniors should be sure to evaluate objectively their own ability to continue driving their vehicles.

If you or a loved one has been injured, contact Grimes Teich Anderson LLP. Call 1.800.533.6845. *No Attorney Fees Until You’ve Been Paid

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Additional Resources:
Fall Accidents, Premises Liability & Risks Among Older Adults, LLP November 1, 2012

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