You Go, Granny!

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) has released a report showing that older drivers have become safer drivers. Between 1997 and 2012, fatal crash rates per licensed driver fell 42 percent for drivers in the 70-and-older age group, according to the study.

In addition to declines in fatal accidents, the numbers went down for nonfatal crashes and for property-damage-only collisions. Not only that – the declines were bigger as driver age increased, going down 36 percent for drivers 70-74, 38 percent for drivers 75-79, and 45 percent for drivers 80 and older.

These surprising results probably stem from a multitude of factors, including advanced safety equipment such as side airbags found in late-model vehicles. Better access to emergency services and health care also help prevent fatalities when seniors are involved in crashes.

Many Americans are staying in the workforce longer, whether due to economic necessity or the desire to remain mentally sharp. This puts more older people on the road more often, which the IIHS says could keep them comfortable with driving tasks, driving more confidently as well as carefully. Older drivers increased their annual mileage during the time period covered by the study, especially those 75 and older, who increased it by more than 50 percent from 1995 to 2008.

Much has been written about the graying of America. From 1997 to 2012, the population of adults 70 and older rose 19 percent; by 2050 that demographic segment is expected to reach 64 million, comprising 16 percent of the U.S. population. The 80 and older population is expected to nearly triple to 31 million. These are not pie-in-the-sky predictions – they’re a reality we must prepare for. It’s heartening to know, though, that apparently we don’t need to worry about hordes of hazardous seniors careening down the highway. After all, some of us are not too far away from senior citizenship ourselves.

Anne McCartt, a Senior Vice President at the IIHS, says, “This should help ease fears that aging baby boomers are a safety threat. Even crashes among the oldest drivers have been on a downswing.” It will be interesting to see whether insurance rates begin to reflect the new crash data.

At McNeely Stephenson, we have been helping people injured in car, truck, and motorcycle crashes since 1981. If you or your loved one has been the victim of a negligent driver of any age, call Mike Stephenson, Indianapolis vehicle accident lawyer, at 1-855-206-2555 or fill out our online form.