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Older drivers and safety data, part 1: aging and accidents

Does an aging national population mean there are likely to be more car accidents caused by older drivers?

In this two-part post, we will discuss how that once-common view is matching up with current reality.

Our point of departure will be a recent research study issued by a respected safety organization, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.

Not that long ago, there was considerable concern about demographic trends producing a growing number of older drivers who would be a "gray menace" on the roads.

This was an understandable concern, given how eyesight, hearing, reflexes and mental alertness can diminish with age.

Indeed, the concern remains a legitimate one. No one has found the proverbial fountain of youth, and sensory and cognitive declines experienced by older people are very real.

Fortunately, there are also some countervailing trends. For one thing, cars are generally designed to be more crashworthy than they used to be. In addition, senior citizens these days tend to be healthier than seniors once were. This means that the impact of illness on their driving performance is not as prevalent as in the past.

Nonetheless, the study by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety found much to consider regarding car accident rates and fatal crashes involving older drivers. It's true that hose rates have generally come down. But there are still large numbers of car accidents that kill and injured people in Connecticut and across the nation.

We will explore some of the data in detail in part two of this post.

Source: Insurance Journal, "Grandpa and Grandma Much Safer Behind the Wheel Than Predicted," Joan Lowy, Feb. 25, 2014

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