The aging U.S. population has been the source of discussion for many years. Although there are a number of concerns associated with a growing share of older Americans, road safety officials have — in the past — raised serious concerns about the frequency of serious car accidents associated with elderly drivers.

Not long ago, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety released a study providing results that might come as a surprise to readers: Older drivers are becoming involved in fewer and fewer accidents. This finding comes in contrast to earlier predictions made by the organization.

Crash data analyzed by the Insurance Institute, shows that drivers 70 and older have seen larger declines in fatal crash rates than drivers between the ages of 35 and 54 since 1997. Specifically, the fatal accident rate per licensed driver fell by 42 percent between 1997 and 2012.

These declines are cast against a background of a growing population people ages 70 years and older. Between 1997 and 2012, the years included in this study, the portion of Americans in this age group increased by 19 percent.

Many people might assume that crash outcomes would only become worse with growing numbers of seniors on the road. However, analysts for the Insurance Institute indicate that seniors today are in better shape than previous generations of seniors, which means they are better equipped to drive safely and handle the impacts of a crash.

Drivers throughout the country can rest easier knowing that population shifts in terms of age might not have such a dramatic negative effect on car accidents. Still, this doesn’t change the fact that serious auto accidents will happen. Drivers, no matter their age, can be held responsible for negligence behind the wheel that causes serious or fatal injuries.

Source: Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, “Fit for the road: Older drivers’ crash rates continue to drop,” Feb. 20, 2014

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