Over 70 now in fewer reported crashes than 35-54 for first time
Drops in crashes per mile and driver, while number of 70+ drivers increases
A new study from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety has found that drivers in their 70s are now less likely to be involved in a fatal crash than the young whippersnappers who won’t stay off of their lawns. That marks a big change for a generation of drivers once thought to be a threat on the road.
The IIHS says that the number of older drivers has grown rapidly over the last two decades, related to improved health. IIHS President David Harkey referred to this as a ‘silver tsunami’ and said that a systems approach was reached, and that “it worked.”
A systems approach, the group says, looks at “the interconnected factors that contribute to a problem to develop a more holistic solution.” Proactive rather than reactive. Some of those changes have included better health, safer vehicles, new infrastructure, and changes to driver licensing that have taken less capable drivers off of the road.
IIHS data based on US drivers says that older drivers have been historically more likely to crash than other age groups, and less likely to survive those crashes. As soon as the 1980s warnings of a looming crisis were issued, and fatal crashes in the US involving older drivers peaked at close to 5,000 in 1997.
This latest study compared drivers 70 and up with those aged 35-54, and looked at fatal crash involvements per 100,000 licensed drivers and per mile travelled, police-reported crash involvements per mile, and driver deaths per 1,000 police-reported crashes.
The number of older drivers grew twice as quickly from 2010 to 2018 as the decade before, as did miles travelled. The fatal crash rate per licensed driver fell 43 percent from 1997 to 2018, a decline double that of the younger group. Most of that drop was in the first half of the study, though, with older drivers remaining flat and middle-aged drivers having an increasing fatal crash rate.
Per mile travelled, both fatal and police-reported crashes “rose substantially” for middle-aged drivers but declined for those over 70, giving septuagenarians fewer crashes per mile than middle-aged drivers for the first time in 2017. The group expects this trend to continue because older drivers tend to hold onto vehicles. Meaning it takes longer for them to get the latest safety features.