America’s population is aging. In fact, as the baby boomers grow older and enter into retirement, some are saying that a “silver tsunami” is coming. This phrase refers to the fact that the elderly will make up a much larger portion of the population in coming years, creating a host of complications with Medicare, social security and other programs for the elderly.
Some are also concerned that the increasingly elderly population will create a greater risk of auto accidents. Our Watertown car accident attorneys believe that elderly drivers can be a risk if they do not stop driving when they are no longer capable of doing so safely. However, data shows that the aging population will not, on the whole, create a greater accident risk.
Elderly Drivers and the Dangers of Auto Accidents
According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, drivers in the 65+ age group are soon going to make up a huge portion of the driving population. When assessing the driving population, all those over age 15 who are potentially eligible to drive are considered.
All of the potentially eligible drivers are divided into age groups that span five years. For example, an assessment is made to determine the number of drivers ages 15-19, as well as how many drivers there are between the ages of 20-24, 25-29 and so on. IIHS reports that the number of potentially eligible drivers in each five year group is going down, except in the age groups over 65. This means that there will be fewer 20-24 year old drivers, fewer 25-29 year old drivers, and fewer drivers in all of the other age groups except for those involving drivers over age 65.
The larger portion of elderly drivers on the roads could be cause for concern because older drivers tend to have a higher fatality rate per miles driven than younger drivers. According to IISH, the age group with the largest number of accident insurance claims per miles driven are drivers ages 15-19. The number of accidents in each age group then begins to decline, until the drivers reach age 70 at which point the number of accident claims start to go up again. This means that those ages 70 and older are more likely than anyone else, other than teen drivers, to get into accidents.
Despite this bad news, IIHS indicates that the increase in elderly drivers is not likely to create an increase in the number of accidents that occur. In fact, while the number of accident claims per hundred miles is expected to increase from 6.12 claims for each hundred insured cars to 6.16 claims for each 100 insured cars, this slight increase in claims isn’t due to elderly drivers. It is instead due to the fact that there will be more total drivers.
The elderly may not present as great an accident risk as feared because the accident rate for elderly drivers has been steadily on the decline between 1997 and 2008. The fatal accident rate in older drivers has declined 30 percent during this time.
Of course, individual elderly drivers could still be a risk to themselves or others if they are no longer able to drive safely but continue to drive anyway. Drivers, therefore, need to evaluate their skills as they age to determine if they are still able to drive. Family members also need to take responsibility for the older relatives in their lives and to monitor the seniors to determine if they have become a hazard on the roads.
If you or a loved one has been injured or killed in a car accident, contact Jeffrey S. Glassman for a free and confidential consultation to discuss your rights. Call (617) 777-7777.
NHTSA: Pedestrian, Bicyclist, Motorcycle & Trucking Accidents on the Rise in 2011, Boston Car Accident Lawyer Blog, December 13, 2012.