February 26, 2004

Older drivers twice as likely to die in crash as middle-aged drivers

Washington, D.C. – Older drivers are twice as likely to die in a car crash as middle-aged drivers, according to a study by the Texas Transportation Institute conducted for the AAA Foundation. The study looked at 25 years of police level crash data from nearly four million injury crashes in Texas.

The just-released AAA Foundation study “Older Driver Involvement in Injury Crashes” found that, when compared to 55-64 year old drivers, three older age groups became progressively more likely to be in a crash because of (1) perceptual lapses that lead to failing to yield the right of way or disregarding signs or signals, (2) failing to properly negotiate the left-turn driving maneuver and (3) illness from some physical ailment at the time of the crash. The Texas Transportation Institute conducted the study for the AAA Foundation, looking at 25 years of police level crash data from nearly four million injury crashes in Texas.

People over 65 are the fastest-growing population in the United States. By 2020, there will be more than 40 million licensed drivers ages 65 and older. Seniors make up 13 percent of all traffic fatalities and 12 percent of all vehicle occupant fatalities.

Focusing on pre-crash prevention strategies for the driver, road and vehicle will reduce crashes and save seniors’ lives, said the AAA.

The AAA has developed a three-pronged approach for its “Lifelong Safe Mobility” campaign. Specifically, AAA will develop state-of-the-art driver self screening tool and driver safety courses; advocate “senior-friendly” road design; and educate older drivers on ways to adapt their vehicle to accommodate some of the limitations brought on by age. Announcement of the strategy coincides with release of a new AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety study on older driver crashes.

“The study’s finding that older drivers are twice as likely as middle aged drivers to die in a crash reinforces the need to focus on crash prevention for seniors,” said Bella Dinh-Zarr, PhD, AAA Director of Traffic Safety Policy. “Because of their fragility, older drivers are at greater risk than other drivers of being hurt in a crash even though they drive less. AAA’s recently launched “Lifelong Safe Mobility” initiative is all about helping older drivers stay safe.”

For more information on AAA’s “Lifelong Safe Mobility” initiative, visit www.aaapublicaffairs.com.

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