The Tennessee Department of Transportation has a pamphlet on its website called Decisions for Tennessee's Senior Drivers. The purpose of the pamphlet is to help seniors (and their families) make an informed choice about whether the senior is still capable of driving.
This pamphlet is published because Tennessee recognizes that seniors may at some point lose their ability to drive safely. The fact that senior drivers do become a potential hazard is a cause for concern, and this issue will become a very important one as baby boomers age and the make-up of the driving population changes.
Our Knoxville injury attorneys believe that understanding the impact of an aging population on the roadways is very important. While one recent status report published by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety indicates that the aging population may not present the increased accident risk that everyone feared, it remains important for every family to keep an eye on the behavior of aging loved ones in their lives.
IIHS Data and the Changing Driving Mix
According to IIHS, there is a coming increase in the number of potentially eligible drivers (those in the U.S. over aged 15). From 2010 to 2030, the number of people who can drive legally in the U.S. is expected to increase by almost a fifth.
Despite this increase, the number of drivers within the majority of age groups will be declining. Data is kept on the number of drivers within each five-year age group (i.e. 15-19 year olds; 20-24 year olds and so on). In upcoming years, the number of potential drivers in each of these different five-year age groups will be declining (so the number of 15-19 year olds will go down; the number of 20-24 year olds will go down, etc.).
This decline, however, does not apply to those five-year age groups over age 65 (i.e. 65-69 year olds; 69-71 year olds, etc.). This means that those in the 65+ age groups are going to represent a larger percentage of the driving population.
This changing mix of drivers matters because, historically, those over age 70 had a higher rate of fatal crashes per mile driven than those under age 70. Further, although teen drivers ages 15-19 had the most insurance claims of any group, the number of claims declines from 19 straight through until age 65, when the number of claims starts to increase again. More older drivers, therefore, may mean more injuries, insurance claims and traffic deaths.
IIHS data, however, indicates that this may not be the case. The institute reports, for example, that there has been a 30 percent decrease in the rate of fatal auto accidents involving those ages 70+ during the years 1997 to 2008. Further, they report that data shows that the number of claims per 100 miles driven is going to remain largely steady. This number is expected to stay between 6.12 claims/hundred insured cars to 6.16 claims/100 insured cars. The slight increase, they say, is attributed to the fact that there are more drivers in general, not just more older drivers.
Keep Your Family Safe
While the aggregate data may show no increased risk of a driving population that continues to age, this is just one study. Seniors should be realistic about when they can no longer drive. And families should be watchful in case a senior doesn't recognize that he/she is no longer capable of operating a vehicle in a safely.