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The Narrative Around Older Drivers Could Be Changing

Since vehicular accidents cause millions of deaths and injuries each year, car safety is always a priority in the auto industry. While cars can be equipped with the most advanced tech, drivers are ultimately responsible for their conduct on the road. Senior citizens are thought to be especially at risk while behind the wheel.

It’s no secret our senses get duller with age, which is why license rules are more strict for older drivers. Some states even require senior drivers to take road and vision tests upon each renewal. However, the IIHS has new research detailing that suggests seniors aren’t the biggest risk on the road anymore.

What past studies have shown about drivers

The CDC collected some data in 2017 from several previous publications about older drivers. According to this research, 257,000 older motorists were injured that year and nearly 8,000 were killed. Research also showed that drivers over 75 have a higher risk of dying in a collision than middle-aged drivers.

Even disregarding cognitive function, older drivers are at more risk behind the wheel simply because of their age. Our bodies get weaker as we get older, so we break bones more easily. High vehicular fatality rates among the elderly could make some people draw the conclusion that seniors are bad drivers.

New research from the IIHS about car safety

In 1997, auto fatalities among seniors were at an all-time high, but this thankfully isn’t the case anymore. In 2018, the IIHS reported that the rate of auto deaths among people over 70 dropped by 43 percent. In contrast, deaths among middle-aged people only dropped by 21 percent.

These changes can be attributed to many beneficial changes in highway safety, like signs with large, easily readable print. New vehicles with better technology, like automatic emergency braking, have also helped save the lives of drivers in any age group. The IIHS also cites better healthcare for seniors as a contributing factor in their lowered fatality risk.

How does old age affect car safety?

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If you’ve ever been in an auto accident, you know that it happens quickly. Our reflexes become slower as we age, so seniors can’t always react as fast as the situation requires. Cognitive function also slows down with old age, meaning seniors could have problems determining the best course of action.

Some seniors also aren’t in peak condition physically, which may make it difficult to control the car. If their hearing or eyesight is going, they won’t be able to sense an incoming accident until it’s too late. Even older people in perfect health may still get into accidents because they drive older cars that lack key safety features.

Younger drivers aren’t off the hook

In a AAA report, nearly 100 percent of all millennial drivers reported engaging in risky driving behavior at least once a month. Drivers aged 19-24 are the biggest risk, frequently texting while driving, speeding, and running red lights. Drivers over 25 are a little more cautious, but 80 percent still confess to committing these big safety violations.

Teenage drivers are also a huge liability behind the wheel, largely due to lack of experience. While they may have read the driver’s handbook to prepare for a written test, that doesn’t mean they know every law. Without a lot of knowledge about real-world driving, you’re not prepared for how unpredictable some drivers can be.

Younger age groups also frequently don’t have their seatbelts on or aren’t wearing them properly. This contributes to many injuries and even deaths behind the wheel, especially for the driver and front passenger. Judging from this latest research, it’s clear that every age group has bad driving tendencies, not just seniors.