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Thursday, August 02, 2007

New Study Finds Senior Citizens Are Safe Drivers

Young Drivers Pose Greater Risk on U.S. Roadways

New research shows that young drivers between 15 and 24 years old are three times as prone to cause car accidents as senior citizens. These new findings are at odds with policies that make it more difficult for older drivers to renew their licenses.

Researchers at the Rand Institute for Social Justice found that adults over the age of 65 comprise 15 percent of drivers, but were guilty for only 7 percent of the 330,000 deadly two-car crashes in the past 25 years.

They said that drivers up to age 24 accounted for 13 percent of drivers, but were responsible for 43 percent of the accidents across the United States. Senior drivers were only 16 percent more prone to cause a crash than drivers between the ages of 25 and 64.

"(There is) pretty widespread public concern about the safety of older drivers," said an RAND economist named David Ploughman, who worked on the study.

"Over the past 20 years, there been a strong trend to adopt more stringent licensing policies," he added. "The fact that older drivers are not that much riskier suggests that these policies are certainly questionable."

The study found that the deterioration in vision and slower reflexes that come with aging can hinder the ability to drive, and senior citizens are more susceptible to serious injury and nearly seven times more likely than other adult drivers to be killed if they do have an accident.

However, Ploughman said that the study indicates that senior citizens are driving less frequently or stopping altogether. Those who still drive do so with caution, such as driving during daylight hours and avoiding dangerous conditions.

Only Illinois and New Hampshire demand road tests for older drivers, but other states require them to take vision tests or renew their licenses in person.

The researchers wrote, "On the one hand, requiring older drivers to take road tests, for example, would certainly identify some older drivers whose driving abilities have deteriorated unacceptably."

"But our results suggest that there are relatively few older drivers who need to be legally prohibited from driving, so these drivers pose a relatively small risk to traffic safety overall."

Ploughman said that efforts to reduce accidents would be better spent on younger drivers, who drive more frequently and are more dangerous when they do so.

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