• Dec 6th 2011 at 2:00PM
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There are more older drivers on the road now than young ones, says a new University of Michigan study, prompting researchers to ponder: Who's safer behind the wheel? New drivers or old drivers?

U.S. drivers had better hope its the latter, because a sinking percentage of younger drivers are getting their licenses. Aged drivers represent a growing share of motorists.

In 1983, a third of all drivers in the U.S. were under 30 and 50% of all drivers were under 40 years old. In 2008, just 22% of drivers were younger than 30 and 40% of all drivers were younger than 40.

"Overall, the future evolution of these changes will have potentially major implications for future transportation and its consequences," said Michael Sivak, one of the researchers from the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute. The shift in demographics will impact the kinds of cars people buy, the safety features automakers provide and even the environment, he said.

Who's safer?

Even though there appears to be a bias against older drivers, novice drivers are the riskier group on the road.

"Younger drivers are worse than older drivers," said Loretta Worters, vice president of the Insurance Information Institute. That's because they are immature and inexperienced. "Teens' lack of experience affects their recognition of and response to hazardous situations, and results in dangerous practices such as speeding and tailgating."

Younger drivers are taking their time getting licensed. In 1983, about 87% of 19-year-olds had earned their drivers' license. In 2008, that dipped to about 75%. The dip has been similar for 16-, 17- and 18-year-olds whose licensed driver percentages dropped anywhere from 15 to 19 percentage points.

Oddly, the Internet may be part of why they are staying off the roads.

"It is possible that the availability of virtual contact through electronic means reduces the need for actual contact among young people," Sivak said. "Furthermore, some young people feel that driving interferes with texting and other electronic communication."

There might be economic reasons for the decline, too. Getting teen children a license means more insurance and buying a car. With the economy in its current state it can be difficult to make this a reality.

The boom in older drivers

Drivers above 40 are on the rise. In 2008 the older-than-70 set made up more than 10% of the overall driving population in the U.S., making it the largest licensed demographic.

In 1983, drivers in their 50s and 60s consisted of over 84% licensed drivers. That figure has spiked to 95%. Most dramatically, the 65- to 69-year-old set jumped to a 94% licensed population in 2008, up from 55% in 1983.

Though they may be safer drivers over all, older drivers have more risks of facing serious injuries due to frailty. NHTSA reports that 5,533 people age 65 and older were killed in car accidents in 2009 -- 16% of all Americans killed on the road. Research suggests they die at greater rates than other age groups because crashes affect their bodies more seriously.

Because of the increase in fatalities and the increase in older drivers on the road, government agencies may scrutinize and regulate older drivers more closely.

But younger drivers remain more dangerous.



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    • 1 Second Ago
  • 271 Comments
      lttim76
      • 3 Years Ago
      Young people drive like bats out of hell. Too busy texting and talking on their iPhones to notice other cars, people, and traffic lights/signs. Old people drive like molasses up a hill. The older the slower and less quick they are adjusting to changing stimuli on the road (cars changing lanes, lights changing and people moving). As always, the best drivers are those in the middle of the spectrum.
      ROCKCRUSHER
      • 3 Years Ago
      How about just making it harder on the old farts whom while sitting on 3 pillows, still cant see grannys 3 stooges hand signals thru the windshield of the 40 ft motorhome with a car in tow ! Thank you ! I feel better now !
      cshae89546
      • 3 Years Ago
      Statistics indicate that national sales of opioid pain relievers to hospitals and elsewhere continue to climb. Sales rose from 1.8 kg per 10,000 people in 1999 to 7.1 kg per 10,000 people in 2010. Many of these people are on the road and frequently they have not been cautioned about the dangers of driving under the influence and are not asked about opioid use when they do get in an accident.
      • 3 Years Ago
      . I'M 73 AND I HAVE BEGUN TO REALIZE THAT I MAY NOT BE SHARP ENOUGH TO CONTINUE DRIVING. WILL I TAKE MYSELF OFF THE ROAD, OR WILL I WAIT UNTIL MY FAMILY SAYS.....GIVE ME THE KEYS TO YOUR CAR, PLEASE!!!!!!! GIVING UP DRIVING MEANS YOU ARE GIVING UP A LOT OF YOUR INDEPENDENCE. I WAS BORN TO BE FREE, BUT NOT FREE TO KILL. MAY I CALL YOU FOR A RIDE TO THE SUPER MARKET?
        evilweevil
        • 3 Years Ago
        Bob you can give me a call anytime if im on the way there no problem whaat so ever
      • 3 Years Ago
      The author of this article doesn't live in Florida!!! The number of elderly drivers is unbelievable!! The majority of them shouldn't be on the road. Just because an senior doesn't personally have an accident, doesn't mean that they aren't the causes of them. Can't tell you how many times they cross double lines on the road, make sudden stops, turn without signalling, hit the gas when it should be the brake and shoot across traffic without even looking. I believe once you get of age, then you should be required by law to take a driving test to keep your drivers license. Its not a discrimination thing, its a safety thing.
      Becky
      • 3 Years Ago
      Sorry, this article is wrong. I know I will get a lot flac for this but, the worst drivers are mini van moms/dads Hauling a** thru my neighborhood talking on their phones and yelling at thier kids while they try to make it to another flipping kiddie event!
      • 3 Years Ago
      Driving and knowing you children are: putting on mascara, or lipstick, or both, and talking on the phone, while smoking a cigarett or possibly something worse, is those of us who are older worst nightmare!! I've seen you children studying text books while driving--what the hell were you doing last night??? I am seriously worried about what is happening to this country now, let alone how these idiotic children are going to abuse the system!
      binincave
      • 3 Years Ago
      Yes, I'm 701/2 yrs. I drive a Supercar rated at 190 MPH It's much easier to drive than walk.
      Mare
      • 3 Years Ago
      Just drive around south Florida and you'll see that older drivers are worse. Most of them came from "up north" where they didn't have to drive but drive now because there isn't any mass transit.
      Rocky
      • 3 Years Ago
      Avoid accidents; use your turn signals. Remember: the most important thing happening while you are driving is YOU ARE DRIVING. It is the first order of business, ahead of cell 'phones and texting, not to mention reading.
      Airii
      • 3 Years Ago
      Jeez, all this lumping. I'm twenty and have my license for all of four years but I drive better than a mass majority of older people I'm around. Appropriate speeds and signaling, checking of blind spots. I've been cutoff, yelled at and flipped off through the window more times by middle-aged men than anyone else. Not to mention their love of tailgating and then swerving around me and slamming on their brakes. I mean, it's not too surprising...don't people get more disgruntled with age?
        B Koz
        • 3 Years Ago
        @Airii
        yes we do....now get the hell outa my way lol....just messin' with ya JB
        vvvvvv667
        • 3 Years Ago
        @Airii
        I mean, it's not too surprising...don't people get more disgruntled with age? I know one thing for sure. You will find out someday.
          msm0207
          • 3 Years Ago
          @vvvvvv667
          Gee, I thought the people got more mellow. Certainly an easier touch for the grandkids than the parents.
        Viper
        • 3 Years Ago
        @Airii
        I still believe "brake checking" should be illegal. You would think that most people would recognize that as trying to cause an accident.
          B Koz
          • 3 Years Ago
          @Viper
          if you're on my ass Viper...be prepared to kiss it or back off...its your choice
      • 3 Years Ago
      UUMMMM, what happens to the stats when a 19 year old in a jeep Cherokee T-Bones a guy 79 in a CAD?
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