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Driving While Older, Part I

By January 26, 2018Personal Insurance

Admit it: when you see granny on the road, you keep your distance. But is she really a four-wheeled menace or just a victim of bad PR?

Although age brings inevitable physical and mental changes, such as weaker eyesight and slower reflexes, it doesn’t automatically turn all drivers into bad drivers. Experience and compensating strategies can go a long way toward keeping older drivers safe.

With the first baby boomers turning 65 this year, older drivers are getting more attention. So whether you fall into that category or have parents who do, learn what it means to DWO (drive while older) and boost safety and independence for years to come.

Do older drivers have more accidents? Crash rates by age are very high for teens, slowly decline until mid-life, and then more or less level off because older drivers drive less, drive slower, limit their trips to safer times of day and good weather, and drink and drive less often.

On the other hand, the crash rate per mile rises with age — and today’s healthier and more mobile seniors drive more miles. Even with that, however, “over the past two decades, the age at which crash rates and fatality rates start rising sharply has been delayed by about 10 years, from 65 to 75,” says Dr. Guohua Li, a professor of epidemiology at Columbia University.

This means that older drivers are, from an insurer’s point of view, pretty safe. But if the oldest people drove as much as younger people, they’d have lots of accidents, especially the men.

Older drivers are still less likely to strike another vehicle and cause a fatality. However, fatality rates should they crash are a problem. The fragility of older drivers (weaker hearts, brittle bones and softer muscles) makes them more likely to succumb to injuries. Consequently, injury claims go up with older drivers due to pre-existing conditions which can be more easily aggravated in a vehicle accident.

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