Advertisement
Find a Car
Go!

Teen Drivers Die In Crashes. Old Folks Too. Who's Feared Most?

Follow John

Fatalities per mile driven by age, from FiveThirtyEight.com, DoT data analyzed by IIHS

Fatalities per mile driven by age, from FiveThirtyEight.com, DoT data analyzed by IIHS

Enlarge Photo

Did you see the recent Hyundai ad that touts the safety of its new 2011 Sonata by playing on your fear of out-of-control teens behind the wheel?

It cites the statistic that 3 million young adults will get new drivers' licenses each year--over a clip of a young woman being launched into the air on a sort of bungee slingshot contraption. Which looks like a whole lot of fun, frankly.

The ad raised some eyebrows over at our favorite data-analysis site, FiveThirtyEight.com. The author notes that young drivers clearly have the highest fatality rate per mile driven. It's four times as high, in fact, as the rate for drivers 30 to 60. But there's more to it.

That death rate declines steadily to about age 25, and stays low until drivers reach age 70.

And then it soars steeply, to the point where drivers 80 to 84 are as dangerous as 18-year-olds. And it keeps rising from there; drivers 85 and above have the highest fatality rate of all, fully one-and-a-half times as high as the 16-year-olds.

We'd add a couple of caveats of our own: First, unlike teens, car accidents represent less than 1 percent of deaths in the affected age group. Cancer, heart disease, and so forth are much more deadly.

Second, the fatality rate is mostly due to greater susceptibility to injuries, rather than a higher propensity to get into accidents. Or so says the IIHS in analyzing fatality data from the Department of Transportation.

Still, many states now have graduated licensing for teenage drivers. No less a body than the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) recommended raising the age for a driver's license to 17 nationwide, though that idea seems unlikely to fly.

Yet in a majority of states, a driver's license is granted for life. Mandatory retesting starting at age 60 has been proposed numerous times, but mostly beaten back by an outraged roar from the drivers who would have to be retested.

Why the disparity? First, most of us remember our teen years and--if pressed--will probably admit to pushing the limits, driving unsafely, and otherwise doing hazardous things behind the wheel.

Second, and probably more important, older U.S. citizens--ably organized by the American Association of Retired People (AARP)--form a potent political constituency.

They vote. They give money. They write letters. And they often take offense at any perceived slight or generalization about the abilities and behaviors of their age group, whether or not it's supported by actual data.

That makes criticizing old people the proverbial "third rail" in the media.

The role of age in the recent Toyota sudden-acceleration recalls wasn't touched by any major media. In fact, despite a graph showing that the bulk of the incidents ending in fatalities were reported by drivers aged 61 to 80, it was never even raised that we saw.

We're not saying young driversĀ  are blameless; far from it. We just think drivers over 60 deserve equal levels of scrutiny.

[FiveThirtyEight.com]

Advertisement
 
Follow Us

 

Have an opinion?

  • Posting indicates you have read this site's Privacy Policy and Terms of Use
  • Notify me when there are more comments
Comments (5)
  1. Article doesn't directly look at crash RATES by age nor does the one you linked to about Toyota and age. It's not DEATHS that are the only thing that matter, it's how many crashes the age groups cause per mile driven. That's the article I want to see.
     
    Post Reply
    Vote
    Bad stuff?

  2. While the rate may be high for the old-timers, you have to remember that the number of 80-year old plus drivers on the roads is MUCH lower than the number of 16 to 25 year olds. Once kids get their license they're out everyday at all hours of the day.
    So the chances of being involved in accident with an old-timer is much lower than that with a young person.
     
    Post Reply
    Vote
    Bad stuff?

  3. i agree with some of the comments above re the raw numbers involved here - the number of young folks driving versus those 85 and older is likely quite different. however, facts are facts re the realities around trends with humans as the age and continue driving. need to be able to discuss honestly and not worry about the aarp or other interest groups shaming us into avoiding honest dialogue.
     
    Post Reply
    +1
    Bad stuff?

  4. I'd say keep the initial licensing standards the same, if anything, increase the driver's test intensity about 20%. Once licensed, I really feel that passing an eye test and paying your fee is plenty tough to be able to get re-licensed. But that should stop at 80, or, if a DMV attendant sees an adverse driving record of late for the person, I feel they should be re-tested, written and driving, even if not yet yet 80 years of age. And 80+ should require a yearly re-testing of the elderly driver's written and driving skills. Teens are more dangerous, true, but it's also true that their total number of drivers are much higher.
     
    Post Reply
    +1
    Bad stuff?

  5. No surprises here. Both cases are a high risk categories.
    The sad part about it so little is being done to address the issue because the states need the bucks regardless of the dangers posed by drivers from one end of the spectrum to the other.
    So automakers keep putting in as many airbags in those vehicles as possible :-) Oh and let's not forget to eventually have a "warning label" temporarily displayed on the inside of your windshield when you put the key in the ignition :-)
     
    Post Reply
    Vote
    Bad stuff?

 

Have an opinion? Join the conversation!

Advertisement
Try My Showroom
Save cars, write notes, and comparison shop with hi-res photos.
Add your first car
Advertisement
Take Us With You!
   
Related Used Listings
Browse used listings in your area
Advertisement

 
© 2014 The Car Connection. All Rights Reserved. The Car Connection is published by High Gear Media. Stock photography by izmo, Inc. Send us feedback.