Seniors, Driver Safety - The Missourian: Opinion

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Seniors, Driver Safety

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Posted: Saturday, February 22, 2014 3:00 pm

As Americans are living longer, there was concern that there would be more traffic accidents involving seniors. That has not happened, according to safety researchers.

Today’s drivers age 70 or older are less likely to be involved in crashes than previous generations and are less likely to be killed or injured if they do crash, according to study results released by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. Two reasons were given for the change: Vehicles are safer and seniors generally are healthier.

Another factor may be that many seniors elect not to do much night driving, especially on highways. Overall, they also are probably driving less, but still more than other generations in their age category.

Seniors are no longer considered as making roads deadlier, the Institute said.

Traffic fatalities overall in the United States have declined to levels not seen since the late 1940s. Accident rates for other drivers have decreased also. Since 1997, older drivers have enjoyed bigger declines as measured by both fatal crash rates per driver and per vehicle miles driven than middle-age drivers, defined in the study as ages 35 to 54. From 1997 to 2012, fatal crash rates per licensed driver fell 42 percent for older drivers and 30 percent for middle-age ones, the study found. With vehicle miles considered, fatal crash rates fell 39 percent for older drivers and 26 percent for middle-age ones from 1995 to 2008.

The greatest rate of decline was among drivers age 80 and over, nearly twice that of middle-age drivers and drivers ages 70 to 74.

As an association of older people said, the report “dispels common misconceptions and reveals positive trends related to older drivers.” One fact is sure, older drivers have more experience.

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