• Dec 6, 2011
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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 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. 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. Most dramatically, the 65- to 69-year-old set jumped to a 94 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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  • 271 Comments
      Forest Chump
      • 3 Years Ago
      Why not do more to ENFORCE the laws for ALL drivers. Example: how many older drivers do you see texting or using a hand-held cell phone in CA? Now How many younger drivers?
        Mark Lathom
        • 3 Years Ago
        @Forest Chump
        Here in CA, just as many... Because the older ones wanna look as cool as the young ones to prove they "still got it:"
      Willow
      • 3 Years Ago
      I think is about 50/50 in the end one can be old and have the maturity behind them but be intimidated by the slow reflex and then yet again one can be young and foolish when driving so its about even a human is a human no matter his age. We are all capable of good driving and bad.
      Alan Wallace
      • 3 Years Ago
      The writer of this article has clearly never driven in South Florida, aka, "God's waiting room." When you are so old you can't hear the siren on the firetruck that hits you when you pull out in front of it; when you can rear-end a bus and HONESTLY claim "I didn't see it;" when you have the reflexes of a mouldering corpse, you are too old to drive. Elderly drivers drive through the fronts of buildings, incudling the DMV, and yet, in most cases, keep their licenses. In order for a young person to drive through a building, they'd have to be drunk, fleeing the police, or both.
        msm0207
        • 3 Years Ago
        @Alan Wallace
        Perhaps states that are famous for retirees (without public transportation) should have testing for seniors.
      • 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?
        • 3 Years Ago
        Bob you can give me a call anytime if im on the way there no problem whaat so ever
      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.
      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.
      Caitlin
      • 3 Years Ago
      Yeah so there have been a rash of people just driving into buildings and storefronts in my area, several in the past few months...guess what all these drivers had in common? All of them were elderly.
      poncee22
      • 3 Years Ago
      I am an elderly person and I find that younger drivers, expecially those in the mid twenty range have no patience behind the wheel. With that being said, I pretty much drive about 6 mph under the speed limit so as to piss them off. I chuckle when I see them pass me and they flash me the finger. Funny how after all their rants, I end up at the next stop light and they are just sitting there waiting. Got to love it.
        msm0207
        • 3 Years Ago
        @poncee22
        I found myself getting impatient at stop lights (I was around 45). I had a clock with a second hand (actually a pulse) and I started counting how long I was at the lights. 1 minute was max (normal conditions) I learned to chlll out and leave earlier.
      Welcome Roslyn
      • 3 Years Ago
      In the Boston area, the elderly are by far the worst drivers. They are too slow, go all the time when they are not supposed to, go through stop signs, and I see them even driving on the left side of the road!!! Teens are usually the ones driving too fast or get too close but they are not as bad as elderly. For example, I was crushed into a wall from an elderly 81 yr old (who stopped and THEN when into me - it wasn't even a light and he claimed he had the straight of way for his turn even though I was going straight). They needed the jaws of life to get me out of the car and it took over a year to fully recover from this accident. This was back in 2005 and I still have a bulging disc that hurts me from time to time. This elderly man never apologized either - I just hope his family cares enough about him and took his car/license away.
      • 3 Years Ago
      Has more to do with intelligence and ability. And being able to ascertain when you no longer feel capable..to give it up. There are some very stupid people driving.. and it usually shows up one way or another.
      • 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!
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