It’s a longstanding stereotype that older adults are bad drivers. It’s claimed that people over 65 are responsible for a large number of both major and minor crashes. But is there any truth to this, or is it an unfair attitude in the cultural zeitgeist?
The first and most important thing to consider is that there are more elderly drivers today than ever before. People are living longer (meaning there are more elderly people than before), and the overwhelming majority of seniors (nearly 85%) have a driver’s license. Not only that, but elderly people in 2020 were driving significantly more miles per year than those in 2000.
While seniors make up a greater percentage of car crash injuries than they did 20 years ago, it’s important to recognize that people over 65 make up significantly more of the driving population than they did 20 years ago. While it varies by state, seniors generally make up about 20-25% of all active drivers.
Given that, it’s time to ask the important question: Is the rate of car crash injuries proportional to the number of elderly drivers? Let’s look at the crash reports.
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Records and Rates
There are roughly 6,000,000 car crashes in the United States each year. Of all the crashes in 2019, about 39,000 people lost their lives and more than 4.5 million sought immediate medical attention, according to the National Safety Council. That data suggests that in 2019, about 4,000 adults over 65 died in car crashes. However, this is just one estimate.
From this data, we can infer a few things. Going by the higher CDC numbers, elderly deaths in car accidents are just slightly greater, proportionally, than the number of elderly drivers (22%/20%). However, the number of older persons the CDC reported as injured in car crashes is significantly lower than expected (about 10% of all car crash injuries).
To put it simply, the CDC suggests that drivers over the age of 65 have a slightly higher rate of deaths-per–mile driven than the general population (drivers ages 25-64), but they have a much lower rate of deaths-per-mile than young drivers (ages 16-24).
Injuries and Hospitalization
Moreover, the CDC states that older drivers aren’t necessarily involved in more serious or reckless crashes. Rather, the data suggests that older people have a higher risk of severe or fatal injuries even in minor car crashes because they are more vulnerable to both the initial injury and potential complications during the healing process.
Because these injuries are so dangerous and can have longer recoveries, older drivers injured in a car crash should consult an experienced attorney who can help recover the damages they need to heal and move forward.