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  • Posted October 9, 2020

Senior drivers involved in fewer fatal crashes than middle-aged drivers, study says

Senior drivers involved in fewer fatal crashes than middle-aged drivers, study says

by: Steve Sbraccia

Posted: Oct 1, 2020 / 04:02 PM EDT / Updated: Oct 1, 2020 / 06:27 PM EDT

RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) – A long held belief about older drivers is being upended by a new study.

The Insurance Institute For Highway Safety says drivers in their 70s are less likely to be involved in crashes than middle-aged drivers.

Older drivers being involved in serious or fatal wrecks do happen but it was feared that as the Baby Boomer generation aged, there would be a huge number of crashes involving senior drivers.

“We haven’t seen the dire results that were predicted in the late 80s and early 90s,” said IIHS President David Harkey.

He said a recently completed study by the IIHS indicates drivers in their 70s have fewer fatal crashes than middle-aged drivers.

But why is that?

It turns out it is a combination of technology, infrastructure changes, and the way senior drivers work to stay healthier and fit.

That health factor is more important than you think, said Harkey.

“It’s certainly a factor when it comes to survivability in a crash.”

Add to that, more and better safety features in vehicles, from air bags to things like collision avoidance systems which keep the car from running into a vehicle in an adjoining lane.

“Think about an older driver and the difficulty they have in turning their heads,” said Harkey, “With blind spot warnings, that tech can be a real asset to someone merging on a freeway.”

Better pavement markings and bigger, brighter signs are also making things easier for older drivers to negotiate roadways.

Harkey said redesign of roads to include things like roundabouts has helped.

With a roundabout, “You remove one of the most hazardous maneuvers for an older driver, which is the left turn,” he said.

Tighter licensing restrictions for older drivers are also a factor as are better checks and balances.

“We’ve also created more fitness-to-drive programs where you involve physicians and occupational therapists,” he said.

Because older drivers hold on to their vehicles longer, the IIHS says it takes longer to see the results of safety improvements on crash rates.

In the coming decade, Harkey expects the trend to of older drivers being involved in fewer crashes to continue.

“You’ll see more changes to infrastructure,’ he said. “We’ll continue to see improvements in vehicle safety.”