Crash rates for drivers in their 70s drop below those of middle-aged drivers
Better health, safer vehicles and various policy interventions have prevented a spike in crashes as a result of the aging U.S. population.
Drivers in their 70s are now less likely to be involved in a fatal crash than those in their prime working years, a new study from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety has found. That’s a remarkable reversal for a generation of drivers once thought to be an outsize threat to themselves and others on the road.
Not only do drivers in their 70s now have fewer fatal crashes per licensed driver, but they also have fewer police-reported crashes per mile traveled than middle-aged drivers.
For the new study, IIHS researchers compared trends among drivers 70 and over with drivers ages 35-54, looking at fatal crash involvements per 100,000 licensed drivers and per vehicle mile traveled, police-reported crash involvements per vehicle mile traveled, and the number of driver deaths per 1,000 police-reported crashes.
For drivers 70 and over, fatal crash rates per licensed driver fell 43 percent from 1997 to 2018, compared with a decline of 21 percent for drivers ages 35-54. However, virtually all those reductions occurred during the first half of the study period. More recently, fatal crash involvements per driver remained steady for older drivers, while those of middle-aged drivers increased.
Per vehicle mile traveled, both fatal crashes and police-reported crashes of all severities rose substantially for middle-aged drivers in recent years and declined for drivers 70 and over. As a result, septuagenarians had fewer police-reported crashes per mile than middle-aged drivers for the first time in 2017.