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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
      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.
      • 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!
      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.
      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.
      wbbrocks
      • 3 Years Ago
      From what I can see on a daily basis, elderly people appear to be confused behind the wheel and cant hear or see emergency vehicles and run thru red lights alot. I always say to myself, they lived all those years and will probably perish in a nasty car accident, what a shame. They should be monitored after say 65 y/o and given an eye and hearing exam by the local DMV.
        Happypoolprune
        • 3 Years Ago
        @wbbrocks
        FYI = Us older folks do have to take additional eye exams - Wait until the day you are told you're too old to drive. I'm older than 65 and still drive close to 300 miles a week - no tickets. No texting while driving, and I don't run red lights or yellow for that matter. In fact I still hold a full time job - and I'm quite active. Age is a number - it's what the individual is capable of that should matter - don't classify us all as "oldsters" - some of us are still quite young -
        msm0207
        • 3 Years Ago
        @wbbrocks
        If you think that is what is needed fine. However, the younger set who has blasted their way through boomboxes, earbuds, etc., need to have their ears examined as well. Also some sort of a test for concentration since so many of them cannot sit still without texting, etc. I hear sirens just fine unless I am next to one of the idiots with their cars booming! As far as red lights, I am convinced none of the younger ones in my neighborhood know you are supposed to stop at a red light before turning right.
      bronxriza
      • 3 Years Ago
      The worst driver is a stupid driver. Make the tests harder, and fatalities will drop instantly.
      • 3 Years Ago
      Tailgating is a no-no for any age group :) By the way in Minnesota, you can drive 10 mph over the speed limit as long as you are passing in a passing zone. This might be true in other States. The idea is to get around quickly and safely and not just sit in the blind spot. I suspect nothing PO's trucker's more than to have someone sit beside him for miles and miles in the passing lane.
      Lee
      • 3 Years Ago
      This arguement will go on forever! It was old when I got my license in 1963, and it goes on today. After a 30 year charter bus driving career, I offer only this advice; observe the "Three Second Rule", travel at the posted speed limit, travel in the right lane except to pass, wear your seatbelt, set your telephone down and treat the other driver as you'd like them to treat you. Sometimes people will take advantage, but demonstrate your maturity regardless of your age, and drive on! Forget about the inconsiderate driver, and get to your destination in one piece! Mature driving is not a matter of age.
      • 3 Years Ago
      Speaking of driving, I was conversing with my car insurance company yesterday and ask him if they will ever change the no-fault law. A car came barreling out on a red light and hit me. That accident was charged to my ins. even tho it was not my fault. That doesn't seem fair to me.
        papcollins
        • 3 Years Ago
        Yeah, Jeanne. I've been run into when stopped, but it still affected my insurance. My agent says I have a tendency to be in the wrong place at the wrong time!
          msm0207
          • 3 Years Ago
          @papcollins
          My insurance adjustor told me to stay out of the food serving areas of my shopping center. Someone backed out into me once. Another hit my car when I was inside and ran away but the OLD folks standing there got the license # for me. The last episode was the large glass cover on a fast food menu flipped up. If I had been farther away from the speaker, it would have crushed my face!!! Employee didn't lock it down.
      rotondojrr
      • 3 Years Ago
      I am 81 yeas old. I am in good health haven't had an accident in over 60 years. My reflexes are as good now as they were when I was younger. When I was young I drove lots of miles .Even drove a Taxi cab for 2 years. One of the reasons older people are better drivers is because of experiance and another is we don't drive near the miles we used to. We also don't go running from bars to bars. I know because I did it. At the most I drive 2500 miles a year!
        msm0207
        • 3 Years Ago
        @rotondojrr
        Whatever the experience most elderly are retired and mostly likely not in a hurry to get anywhere. They have learned to leave, allowing plenty of time. Young people leave with just the amount of time needed and one congested area makes them crazy!
      David
      • 3 Years Ago
      I think what it really boils down to is that when you get that experience your reflex driving is so much better I too was an otr truck driver I saw alot of things that would just blow your mind what people will do but in defense there are some of the younger drivers who could drive just as good or if not better than the older drivers
      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
        • 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
          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
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