Law Offices of Paul K. Schrier, PLLC

Who are the worst drivers, Teenagers or the elderly?

Two of the most dangerous age groups on the road are teenagers and elderly adults. Accidents with teens are often caused by inexperience, recklessness or distracted driving. For older adults, however, accidents are more likely to be the result of confusion, concentration issues or other diminished faculties.

So which age group is to blame for more car accidents? If you are like most people, you may think that teenagers cause the most car wrecks because of their lack of driving mastery. It may surprise you to discover that older adults are much more dangerous drivers.

Accident rate is four times higher for older adults

According to a study by Carnegie Mellon University, drivers age 85 and older cause four times as many fatal accidents than teens. Additionally, a separate report by Caring.com estimated that 14 million Americans were involved in accidents caused by a driver aged 65 and over.

Accidents used in these studies includes several deadly cases in Florida, the state with the highest per capita elderly population. The older adults who cause many of these accidents have valid driver’s licenses, passing both written and visual exams. They typically are not intoxicated, not on heavy medications and did not fall asleep while driving. In fact, in many cases the older driver told police they got confused and made a mistake.

The elderly have a low accident fatality rate

Despite being involved in a high number of crashes, older drivers have one of the lowest fatality rates of any age group. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reports that the fatality rate of older adults has declined from 16.3 per 100,000 people in 2006 to 12.9 in 2015.

Much of this decline in accident fatalities could be attributed to self-regulation, as many older adults chose to drive only in daylight hours and avoid high-speed freeways. They also tend to not drive during rush hour or in bad weather conditions.

When it is time to stop driving

Although old age itself isn’t enough reason to stop driving, it is important to understand when it might be time to do so. Watch for the following red flags in yourself or older loved ones:

  • Slowed response times
  • Not seeing stop signs or other traffic signals
  • Inability to turn to check blind spots
  • Frequent honking from other drivers
  • Increased reluctance to drive
  • Getting lost more often
  • Dings or paint scrapes on the vehicle
  • Repeat minor accidents

Accidents used in these studies includes several deadly cases in Florida, the state with the highest per capita elderly population. The older adults who cause many of these accidents have valid driver’s licenses, passing both written and visual exams. They typically are not intoxicated, not on heavy medications and did not fall asleep while driving. In fact, in many cases the older driver told police they got confused and made a mistake.

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