There are problems to address concerning older drivers, whose per-mile crash rates are high. Their fatal crash rates also are high. In fact, the fatality rate among drivers 85 and older is higher than in any other age group, including teens.
Does this mean older drivers are the most hazardous people on the road? They're hazardous to themselves but not particularly to other people. Older people's own fragility makes them vulnerable to getting injured in a crash and then to dying from their injuries (see "What risk do older drivers pose to themselves and others?" March 15, 2003). However, the fatality risk isn't higher for people in vehicles that collide with those driven by older people versus younger ones.
"Drivers younger than 30 are responsible for far more injuries to other people and lives lost in crashes," says Anne McCartt, Institute senior vice president for research.
Rates of insurance claims show a similar pattern. Claims for injuries to other people in crashes increase as drivers age, indicating that older drivers more often are responsible for the collisions in which they're involved (liability claims are paid when a driver is deemed at fault). By age 85 such claims are 95 percent higher than for drivers 30-59 years old. However, the rate of claims for the oldest drivers still isn't as high as for teenagers.
"We need to address problems associated with older drivers, balancing their need for mobility and independence with the risks and remembering that the most hazardous group still is young beginners," McCartt concludes.