published Thursday, February 23rd, 2012

Inside Insurance: 65+ drivers have disproportionately high traffic fatality rates

By David Colmans

Here’s the problem in a nutshell from a just released study by TRIP, a national transportation research agency. Its report, “Keeping Baby Boomers Mobile: Preserving Mobility and Safety for Older Americans,” rates the top 20 states in several categories for 65+ drivers during 2010.

TENNESSEE: 14th with 750,908 drivers 65+; 20th with 17 percent share of 65+ drivers; 10th where fatality crashes involved 65+ drivers; eighth with 119 drivers 65+ killed.

GEORGIA: 12th with 906,875 drivers; sixth for fatalities where crash involved 65+ drivers at 228; sixth for drivers 65+ killed at 152.

ALABAMA: 18th with 682,604 drivers; 7th with 20 percent share of Drivers 65+; 14th with143 fatalities where crashes involved drivers 65+; 14th with 89 senior drivers killed.

In these same categories, the #1 states were California, Connecticut, Florida (twice with fatalities where crash involved drivers 65+ and drivers 65+ killed) and Vermont, respectively. The full report is available here.

There are growing concerns for seniors because the population of Americans 65 and older will grow 60 percent by 2025. By then one in every five drivers will be over 65.

The good news is that by 2025 there will be improvements in health care, education and income that are expected to allow this aging group to be more mobile, healthy and active for a longer portion of their lives, according to the report by TRIP.

Additionally, by 2025 it is hoped that private passenger vehicles will be safer than today, roadways will be in better condition, drivers will be safer and monitoring systems will be much improved.

Here’s the news that is not so good. In 2010, a total of 5,750 fatalities in crashes involved at least one driver 65 and older. Drivers in this age group account for eight percent of all miles driven, according to the report, but disproportionately, these individuals comprise 17 percent of all traffic fatalities.

Many would say that older drivers are more frail, especially those in their late 70s and beyond. However, the report notes that by 2025, there will be many improvements in the overall condition of older citizens.

Fully 90 percent of their travel takes place in private vehicles. In the TRIP study, the total number of 65+ drivers in all 50 states number 33,731,618. California leads the field with 3.14 million drivers while Florida has 2.74 million and Texas with 2.08 million. Six northern states report more than 1 million older drivers and North Carolina is the only other Southern state with more than 1 million.

Of the 5,750 crash fatalities with at least one driver 65 or older, the study points out that 3,398 of those deaths were the driver of at least one of the vehicles involved.

Many auto insurers and other organizations involved in safety issues provide driving courses for older drivers, and in the next few years more will be needed. However, the report points out that better roads will be important for driver safety and the condition of the nation’s highway system, much less local roads, is not that good.

It may seem like a long time until 2025, but 13 years passes quickly when so many infrastructures must be added and more importantly, older ones improved.

We live in an age of increasingly dangerous driver distractions and a growing senior population. Road safety and driver attentiveness has never been more important.

David Colmans is the executive director of the Georgia Insurance Information Service. Contact him at (770) 565-3806 or by email at dcolmans@giis.org.

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