Factors leading to older drivers’ intersection crashes

Braitman, Keli A. / Kirley, Bevan B. / Chaudhary, Neil K. / Ferguson, Susan A.
Traffic Injury Prevention (TIP)
August 2007

Objectives: Older drivers are overinvolved in intersection crashes compared with younger drivers, but the reasons are not clearly understood. The purpose of the present study was to identify the factors that lead to older drivers' intersection crashes.
Method: Study participants were composed of two groups of older drivers -- ages 70-79 (n = 78) and 80 and older (n = 76) -- and a comparison group of drivers ages 35-54 (n = 73); all were at fault in intersection crashes involving nonfatal injuries. Police crash reports, telephone interviews with at-fault drivers, and photographs of intersections were used to determine the kinds of driver actions and errors that led to the intersection crashes.
Results: Drivers 80 and older had fewer rear-end crashes than drivers ages 35-54 and 70-79, and both groups of older drivers had fewer ran-off-road crashes than drivers ages 35-54. Crashes where drivers failed to yield the right-of-way increased with age and occurred mostly at stop sign-controlled intersections, generally when drivers were turning left. The reasons for failure-to-yield crashes tended to vary by age. Compared with drivers ages 35-54 and 80 and older, drivers ages 70-79 made more evaluation errors -- seeing another vehicle but misjudging whether there was adequate time to proceed. In contrast, drivers 80 and older predominantly failed to see or detect the other vehicle. Drivers ages 35-54 also tended to make search errors, but theirs were due more often to distraction.
Conclusions: Factors leading to intersection crashes vary with age, even between two age groups of older drivers. Because the number of older drivers is projected to increase, it is important to identify ways to reduce the frequency and severity of their intersection crashes. Roundabouts and protected left turn lanes at signalized intersections may help to reduce failure-to-yield crashes at intersections, especially among older drivers. Crash avoidance systems may help to reduce crashes for drivers of all ages, but most systems have not been thoroughly investigated using real-world crash data.

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