How safe are elderly motorists?

A misconception regarding elderly drivers has permeated popular culture. Movies, books and even commercials lead Americans to assume that elderly drivers are "bad" drivers. They are supposedly slow, distracted and are generally dangerous. It is true that some elderly motorists are not "good" drivers. They fit either this entire stereotype or part of it. However, the general population of elderly drivers is actually safer than younger motorists are.

According to a study recently conducted by AAA's Foundation for Traffic Safety, elderly drivers are generally more responsible drivers than younger motorists are. The study's authors have concluded that elderly drivers are less likely to engage in the kinds of unsafe behaviors that lead to car accidents.

Unlike younger motorists, elderly motorists are less likely to drive while they are intoxicated. In addition, and possibly because elderly individuals feel less compelled to be "connected" at all times, they are less likely to drive while they are distracted by cellphones. Less than 35 percent of elderly respondents associated with the AAA study admitted to driving while talking on a cellphone, while more than 80 percent of drivers age 25 to 39 admitted to engaging in this distracted behavior.

In general, elderly driver are therefore actually safer and "better" drivers than younger motorists are. When these foundational truths are exposed, it becomes less surprising to learn that accident rates for elderly drivers have declined significantly over the past several years. According to the study, elderly motorists experienced a staggering 31 percent drop in accident-related fatalities between 1997 and 2012.

Source: FindLaw Law & Daily Life, "Are Elderly Drivers Actually Safer Drivers?" Daniel Taylor, Dec. 4, 2014

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