Teens or Seniors: Who Are Our Worst Drivers?

By Insurance.com Posted : 01/02/2009
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We start out like helpless babes and march onward through competency, then to an age of diminished capacity.

And while some grumble and grouse about the “white-haired” drivers who seem, as Shakespeare puts it, to be in mere oblivion, the truth is that we have little to complain about from them. The numbers tell us it’s the beauty of youth we have to fear.

Teenagers (and yes, especially teenage boys), full of confidence in skills they have yet to acquire – and lacking in judgment for which they have not yet learned the need – are the ones we have to look out for.

High risk of death

Less than one percent of people over 65 die as a result of motor vehicle accidents. On the other hand, car crashes are the major cause of death for the age group 15–20. Males in this group are twice as likely as females to die in a car crash.

The young and the lead-footed are truly scary. Their risk of crash per mile is 4 times higher than in older age groups. As the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety puts it, “teenage drivers represent a major hazard.” Although young drivers make up about 6 percent of the total licensed driving population, almost 13 percent (6982) of all drivers involved in fatal crashes in 2007 were young drivers 15 to 20 years old, according to this National Highway Traffic Safety Administration report. The chart below shows drivers' involvement rate in fatal accidents by age and gender per 100,000 licensed drivers.

% Rate
Drivers In Fatal Accidents (2006)
Age Group
80
60
40
20
0
15-20
21-24
25-34
35-44
45-54
55-64
65-74
75 +
Male
Female

Age and experience do matter

And while older drivers do have problems that can sometimes affect their ability to be the drivers they once were, studies show they also tend to be aware of their limitations and restrict their driving as their abilities diminish. As a result, car accidents involving drivers who are seniors are generally not serious. The spike in per mile fatality with older drivers is due to the fact that a driver over 65 is twice as likely to die from the same accident as a driver over 55, and a driver above 75 has four times the risk.

Solutions?

For older drivers, taking a Mature Driver Improvement Course is the first step to ensure they’re aware of all current laws and practices for defensive driving. Many states offer insurance discounts to graduates as well. Also, be sure another adult is monitoring an older driver’s physical abilities. Some states have instituted medical checks for drivers over a certain age.

For younger drivers, more states are adopting graduated licensing systems, which give increasing privileges as the driver matures. Taking a Defensive Driving Course can ensure teens and young adults are refreshed on safe driving practices.

If you have teens, take the time to help them become smart, safe drivers. Teach them the following important safety tips:

  • Obey the speed limit
  • Wear seatbelts at all times
  • Limit distractions (passengers, loud music, cell phones, etc.)
  • Don’t drink and drive

Looking for different information? Have questions or feedback? Please let us know.

Originally posted September 17, 2004.

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