Daily Factoid: Oldest drivers' risk of fatal crashes has fallen, even as miles driven climbs

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety recently released a report showing that older drivers' risk of serious injury or death has fallen in the last fifteen years, although when they are involved in crashes, older drivers are still more likely than younger drivers to suffer the consequences.

This chart summarizes one key result of the IIHS analysis. It compares drivers 70-74, 75-79, and 80+ with, as a baseline, drivers 35-54. You can see two interesting trends here.

  • 80+ drivers' fatality rates fell the most, although they remain significantly higher that the rates for younger drivers
  • Fatality rates for all drivers under 80 seem to be converging

The general trend for all fatalities reflects the gradual updating of the total vehicle fleet; more and more vehicles are fit with ABS and stability control, helping drivers avoid accidents, and more and more have air bags, helping drivers survive the accidents they do have. 

The higher rates of fatality for the oldest drivers (which mirror the  probability of injury, as shown in other studies) simply reflect the inevitable physical frailty of drivers in their 80s and 90s. The IIHS is considering establishing a new vehicle safety testing standard ("Silver Standard") that would reflect a vehicle's ability to protect older drivers in a crash.

The risk that older drivers present to themselves, and others, is about to get a lot more relevant. Between 1995 and 2008, drivers 75 and older increased their annual mileage by 50%, and there's every reason to believe that as the Baby Boomers age, they'll be less inclined to self-regulate and restrict their driving behavior.

In the coming weeks, Revolutionary Old Idea will be releasing its first White Paper. The topic will be the intersection of Automotive R&D and the age demographics of the driving population.