Ten years ago, highway safety researchers forecasted that the rate of car accidents would go up as the number of elderly drivers on the road increased. Today, those same researchers are glad to have been proven wrong. Drivers that are 70 years of age or older are much less likely to be involved in a car crash than earlier generations of elderly drivers. Those that do become involved in collisions have a lower chance of suffering serious injury or being killed. In fact, traffic fatalities among all American drivers have fallen below rates that haven't been seen since the 1940s. With the number of elderly drivers growing every year, what are the reasons behind the decline in their accident rates?
According to the research, there are several factors contributing to the decline in accident rates among seniors. Today's seniors are in much better health than their predecessors. Modern vehicles are also much safer than they were a couple of decades ago. Another reason is that the elderly drivers of today learned to drive in a very different environment than their parents. Drivers aged 70 and older are far more comfortable on freeways and other stressful driving situations than drivers of previous generations.
Researchers long feared that as the ranks of elderly baby boomers swelled, highways in the United States would become a more dangerous place – and with good reason. When the study began, drivers aged 80 and older had double the crash rate of drivers in the 35 to 54 and 70 to 74 age groups. As of 2012, the crash rate of 80 and over drivers dropped to just 1.4 times the rate of drivers in the younger groups. Fatality rates among drivers aged 70 and older have declined much more quickly than rates of the 35 to 54 age group. The largest improvements in crash rates among the elderly happened between 1997 and 2007.
While crash rates are improving most dramatically among the elderly, other age groups saw improvements as well. Between the years 1997 and 2012, crash rates fell as much as 42 percent for older drivers. Middle-aged drivers saw a 30 percent decrease in car crashes. Fatalities fell by as much as 39 percent among the elderly, while drivers from the middle age group saw a 26 percent decline in fatal car accidents.
What does this data mean for the future? Researchers believe that their findings could be a large contributing factor to the overall shift in traffic patterns over the last decade. While elderly drivers travel fewer miles per year than drivers in the middle age groups, data is showing that older drivers are increasing their yearly mileage by larger percentages than middle-aged drivers. Among drivers aged 75 and older, yearly mileage averages rose by more than 50 percent between 1995 and 2008.
There are two reasons why older drivers are driving more miles than ever before. With the huge increase in the number of people staying in the workforce past retirement age, more elderly drivers are commuting to and from work. The increased health of people in this age group also means that they are far less likely to limit their driving due to physical or mental impairment.
With the number of older drivers increasing year after year, this news couldn't have come at a better time. As of 2012, there were as many as 29 million people aged 70 and older in the United States, which works out to nine percent of the population. Estimates show that by the year 2050, there will be at least 64 million people who are 70 and over, or 16 percent of the population. Contact one of our car accident lawyers to pursue compensation for your injuries.
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