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Will Aging Populations Up The Risk of Auto Accidents?

Dec 29, 2012 - Car Accidents by

We are about to ring in 2013!

As baby boomers age and move into retirement, the population in the United States is about to have the largest percentage of elderly individuals in its history. This has a lot of implications, but one concern shared by many is what the changing population mix is going to do to the rate of auto accidents. Many believe that more elderly drivers on the road is going to up the risk of crashes.

But a recent status report from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) indicates that these worries may be unfounded.

Our Tuscaloosa injury attorneys want to take a close look at the recent IIHS report addressing the impact of older drivers on car accident risks. We also urge elderly drivers and the family members of elderly drivers to remember that every person’s situation is different and that there may come a time when the reality must be faced that driving safely is no longer an option for a particular senior. 539294_the_green_shirt

The IIHS Data on The “Silver Tsunami” and Auto Accidents
Referring to the aging of the baby boomers as the “silver tsunami,” IIHS provided some information on the rates of auto accident claims made by seniors in order to get a better grasp of what the aging of so many of the drivers on the roads would do to the accident risks.

This is a concern because the mix of drivers on U.S. roadways will be undergoing a significant change in upcoming years. According to IISH, for example, from 2010 to 2030, the population of people who can legally drive in the U.S. (those over age 15) is expected to increase by almost 1/5. During this time, the makeup of those who can legally drive will shift, with a larger portion of this group falling into the 65+ age groups. Each of the five-year age groups ranging in age from 15-64 will make up a smaller portion of the total population of legal drivers by 2030. By contrast, a larger percentage of the population will fall into each of the 65-69 group; the 70-74 group; the 75-79 group; the 80-84 group and the 85+ groups.

While drivers ages 15-19 account for a disproportionately high number of accident claims made to insurers, the frequency of insurance claims drops for many decades and then begins to rise again once a driver reaches 65. Despite the increase in accident claims after age 65, however, there is some good news. According to the IIHS information, including an analysis of data from the Highway loss Date Institute:

  • The rates of fatal crashes per mile begin to rise from age 70. However, the fatal crash rates among older drivers has fallen faster than the total rates of fatal crashes in recent years. In fact, the rates of fatal crashes for each licensed driver age 70 and up fell 30 percent from 1997-2008.
  • The changing mix of the driving population will have almost no impact on the overall frequency of insurance claims being made. Despite all of the changes, the frequency of claims should still remain almost flat, ranging from 6.12 claims for every 100 insured cars to 6.16 claims for every 100 insured vehicles.

These figures, therefore, suggest that while there may be more crashes due to more people on the roads, there shouldn’t be an increase in crashes simply due to more elderly drivers.

Keeping Seniors Safe
While the figures indicate that there is no cause for widespread concern about the changing driving population, this doesn’t mean that family members should be lax about watching individual seniors for signs that they are no longer capable of driving. Family members need to continue to be mindful of signs that their elderly relatives are suffering from mental or physical changes that may make them a risk to themselves or to others on the road.

Additional Resources:

The Risks of Backover and Parking Lot Accidents During the Holiday Season, Published by Cross & Smith LLC, November 25, 2012

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