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Seniors vs. Young Drivers: Who Causes More Accidents?

UPDATED: June 19, 2018

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According to the recent results of a long-term study conducted by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, older drivers are becoming safer drivers at an astounding rate. The same goes for younger drivers. Car accident fault is on its way to becoming age agnostic.

Senior Drivers Have Lower Fatal Crash Rates

The IIHS study shows that between 1997 and 2012, fatal crash rates for drivers 70 and older fell 42%, compared to 30% for drivers of middle age. Younger drivers, too, showed a reduced fatal crash rate over the same time period.

An aging population necessarily leads to an aging pool of drivers. But it seems that car accident fault is not increasing along with the median age.

The perception that senior drivers are bad drivers may be attributable to media coverage, particularly out of the state of Florida, where it seems that a new bizarre accident involving a senior citizen goes viral nearly every week. But IIHS numbers clearly show that car accident fault and age do not directly correlate.

Senior Drivers Have Lower Non-Fatal Crash Rates

The downtrend in car accident fault is not limited to accidents involving fatalities. Crash-involvement occurrences in non-fatal accidents have also decreased for drivers over 70, and the involvement numbers decrease by an additional 7% for drivers over 80.

While car accident fault and car accident involvement are two similar but distinct concepts, it appears that the general trend is that senior drivers are, for the most part, driving safer than they were ten years ago. The IIHS study does not directly address car accident fault, however.

Older Drivers Have Fewer Accidents

U.S. Census Bureau data published in 2012 offers a small snapshot into the actual number of crashes for each age group. Drivers 19 and under accounted for 4.9% of all car accidents, while drivers 75 and older accounted for 6.5%. Considering the larger subject sample upon which the senior driver percentage is based, it seems clear that younger drivers have more car accident fault issues than their senior compatriots.

Car accident fault and age are always sensitive subjects. Gaining a driver’s license is often a symbolic granting of freedom upon young people, and losing—or being forced to give up—a driver’s license due to old age can be crushing and demoralizing. But based upon recent studies, it appears that senior drivers are safer drivers.

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