Aging Drivers Are a Growing Threat on U.S. Roadways, Study Finds
Distracted drivers, drunk drivers and aggressive drivers tend to be the motorists people think of when considering the threats to public safety on U.S. roadways. The findings of a study recently conducted by researchers at Carnegie Mellon University and the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, however, may add aging drivers to that list.
In fact, as these researchers have found, aging motorists face an increasing risk of fatal crashes, with this risk:
- Significantly jumping up when drivers hit 65
- Being equivalent to the fatality risk associated with inexperienced teen motorists when older drivers are between 75 and 85 years old (It should be noted here that motor vehicle accidents are the number one cause of death for teen drivers, so this increased risk for aging motorists is substantial.)
- Quadrupling when aging drivers reach 85 and older.
Given the fact that about 9.6 million Americans are expected to be 85 or older by 2030, this may represent a big problem in the near future.
Elaborating on this issue, Paul Fischbeck from the Center for the Study and Improvement of Regulation at Carnegie Mellon has explained that:
You always hear about teenage (driver) risks being so incredibly high, but to me the amazing thing is there are two clusters you really have to focus on.
Risks Associated with Elderly Drivers & How to Reduce Them, According to Researchers
In analyzing crash data dating back to 1999, researchers identified some more specific findings about the risks associated with aging motorists. Some of these findings included that:
- Problems with visual acuity, coupled with memory issues, reflex problems and mobility limitations, can all contribute to making elderly motorists more risky on the roads.
- For some people, the medications they take to treat the above (or other) medical issues may also impair driving abilities by, for instance, contributing to memory problems.
- Although aging motorists are far less likely to be involved in drunk driving crashes (when compared to the general driving population), they are far more likely to be involved in intersection crashes, left-hand turn crashes and rear-end collisions.
These findings seem to a call to action for regulators and transportation safety advocates to try to find ways to limit the risks associated with aging motorists.
One suggestion to spearhead this effort has been presented by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), which has recommended forcing elderly drivers to renew their driver’s licenses in person on a regular basis so their vision and driving abilities can be tested.
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