The Truth About Elderly Drivers
It is a longstanding stereotype that elderly drivers are more likely to be involved in a crash. While that may be the public perception, determining whether this view is accurate requires a little investigation.
At the outset, it is crucial to recognize that most Americans over 65 have a driver’s license. In fact, more elderly people have a driver’s license today than at any point before, and they are driving more miles per year than ever before, sometimes exceeding that of working-age adults.
Because people over 65 have become an increasingly large proportion of drivers on the road (20-25% of all drivers by most accounts), some would expect more car crashes involving elderly drivers, but that is not the case.
A Big Misconception?
In 2019, there were about six million car crashes across the country. Of those, 4.5 million people were seriously injured, and 39,000 lost their lives. If these statistics were proportional to the number of elderly drivers, we would expect about 900,000 injuries and 7,800 fatalities in that age group. If elderly drivers were truly more likely to be in a crash, those numbers would be even higher.
CDC numbers suggest the fatal accident rates are proportional to the number of elderly drivers, i.e., they are not over-represented in causing fatal accidents. In 2019, drivers over 65 were involved in about 8,000 fatal car crashes. The rate of crashes involving injuries is actually lower than expected, with an estimated 250,000 elderly drivers hospitalized for car crash injuries each year.
Elderly drivers are slightly more likely to be in a car crash than the general driving population. However, they are significantly less likely to be in a crash than young drivers (those under age 24).
That said, the claim that elderly drivers are dangerous or unsafe is an unfair stereotype. More people over 65 are driving today than ever before, and the majority of them are just as likely to drive safely as anyone else.
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