Aging Populations Raise New Safety Concerns for NTSB
The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) recently convened its first-ever conference to consider the questions of how, when, and whether to limit the driving of older Americans. The NTSB doesn’t aim to revoke or restrict licenses – these decisions fall to the state, rather than the federal, government. The board is, however, interested in establishing uniform testing requirements for drivers and in studying safety-enhancing changes that could be made in vehicles and roads.
How urgent is the need for new measures? It depends largely on which trend lines you follow. On the one hand:
- There are currently 32 million licensed drivers aged 65 and older. That’s about 15 percent of all drivers.
- By 2025, more than 20 percent will be elderly.
- By 2030, according to the National Institute on Aging, that percentage will rise to 25. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) predicts that these drivers will account for one-fourth of all fatal traffic accidents.
What’s more, Americans are holding on to their licenses longer; in just the past 12 years, the percentage of licensed drivers aged 70 and older has risen from 73 to 79 percent.
On the other hand, however, the senior-advocacy group AARP maintains that older drivers are safer drivers:
- Mindful of their personal limitations, they tend to restrict their on-the-road time to daylight hours and short trips in familiar places.
- They also tend to be more cautious, speeding less and avoiding busy highways and intersections.
- They wear their seatbelts more often.
- They are less likely to drink and drive.
Paradoxically, despite its prediction about elders’ causing accidents, the IIHS found that crash deaths among drivers age 70 or older fell 21 percent between 1997 and 2006, even as the population of people 70 or older grew by 10 percent.
Further complicating the picture is the fact that, owing to their greater fragility, older drivers are far more likely to die in a crash – three times more likely, in fact, than those aged 35 to 50. Obviously, the NTSB panelists have their work cut out for them.
Anyone who is involved in a crash should consult with an attorney experienced in handling motor vehicle accidents. The attorneys at Brown Moore and Associates have over 35 years of experience helping individuals injured in car and truck accidents.