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More older drivers will not affect road safety

Tristan Honeywill

Research published in the US Insurance Institute for Highway Safety’s latest Status Report challenges some of the myths about older drivers and safety. Younger drivers are more of an issue, but both young and old will benefit from improvements in car safety and safer roads.

The Highway Loss Data Institute (HLDI) in the US looked at the country’s changing demographics to see how it might affect insurance claim rates. Despite the fact that drivers in their 70s and 80s have higher claim rates than those in their 50s and 60s, the analysis shows that the growth of the older population won’t cause an increase in collision claim rates overall.

Why? Even with a large increase, the number of older drivers is predicted to remain relatively small. And the increase in the proportion of older drivers will be accompanied by a decrease in the proportion of drivers under 30. These people have the highest claim rates of all.

“Age-related impairments can affect a person’s driving, so concern over the country’s changing demographic makeup is understandable,” says HLDI Vice President Matt Moore. “However, when we look at the overall number of claims, this isn’t the looming crisis some have made it out to be.”

Crashes in which elderly drivers apparently lose control of their cars grab headlines from time to time. The way these accidents are reported can create an impression of older drivers as a menace, but contrary to expectations, older drivers aren’t causing more crashes than they used to.

The reasons aren’t well understood, but, says the HLDI, there is evidence that older drivers tend to limit the amount they drive, particularly at night or in other situations they find challenging.

In absolute numbers, there still may be more crashes in the future, but that is because more people will be driving, not because more of the drivers are older. The study doesn’t offer any predictions about serious crashes or fatalities. Older drivers have higher rates of fatal crashes mainly because they are more frail.

“Aging drivers aren’t really changing the road safety landscape,” says Adrian Lund, president of HLDI. “Society needs to consider how to deal with age-related impairments among drivers, but major reductions in crash and injury risk will come from road and vehicle engineering improvements that can bring increased safety for everyone, young and old.”

Source: Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, read full report


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