ARLINGTON, Va., Jan. 16 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Despite growing numbers on the road, fewer older drivers died in crashes and fewer were involved in fatal collisions during 1997-2006 than in years past, a new Insurance Institute for Highway Safety study reports. Crash deaths among drivers 70 and older fell 21 percent during the period, reversing an upward trend, even as the population of people 70 and older rose 10 percent. Compared with drivers ages 35-54, older drivers experienced much bigger declines in fatal crash involvements. Reasons for the fatality declines aren't clear, but another new Institute study indicates that older adults increasingly self-limit driving as they age and develop physical and cognitive impairments.
Compared with drivers ages 20-69, fewer people 70 and older are licensed to drive, and they drive fewer miles per licensed driver. However, older people now hang onto their licenses longer, drive more miles, and make up a bigger proportion of the population than in past years as baby boomers age. There were more than 20 million licensed drivers 70 and older in 2006, compared with just under 18 million in 1997. The total annual miles these older drivers traveled climbed 29 percent from 1995 to 2001, compared with a 6 percent rise among 35-54 year-olds. Per mile traveled, crash rates and fatal crash rates increase starting at age 70 and rise markedly after 80.
These trends have raised concerns about older drivers in fatal crashes. Their fragility makes them vulnerable to getting hurt in a crash and then to dying from their injuries. Physical, cognitive, and visual declines associated with aging may lead to increased crash risk.
Fatal crash involvements decline: Earlier research predicted that older drivers would make up a substantially larger proportion of drivers in fatal crashes, so "the findings are a welcome surprise," says Anne McCartt, Institute senior vice president for research
|SOURCE Insurance Institute for Highway Safety|
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