Tuesday, 07 December 2021 09:59

‘Retirement Vehicles’ Raise Risk of Crash Fatalities for Older Drivers


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Older drivers, who are less likely to survive severe crashes than any other age group, also tend to drive outdated vehicles that lack crucial safety features, recent studies from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety show.

Healthier than ever before, Americans in their 70s and 80s are driving more miles and crashing less often than in past decades. But age-related fragility still makes older drivers less likely to survive crashes than other demographics.


Drivers 75 and older are about four times as likely to die as middle-aged drivers when they’re involved in a side-impact crash and about three times as likely to die in a frontal crash, a previous IIHS study found.


Two new studies show drivers 70 and over tend to drive older, smaller vehicles not equipped with important safety features. The first study compared the vehicles driven by 1.5 million crash-involved Florida drivers ages 35-54 and 70 and older between 2014 and 2018. The second surveyed 900 drivers in those age groups from various states about the factors that influenced their most recent vehicle purchase.


“Persuading older drivers to take another look at the vehicles they’re driving could reduce crash fatalities substantially,” said Jessica Cicchino, IIHS vice president of research and a co-author of both studies. “One big challenge is that, for those on a fixed income, cost often overrides other concerns.”


The study of Florida crashes found drivers in their 70s and older were significantly more likely to be driving vehicles at least 16 years old than drivers ages 35-54. The older drivers were also substantially less likely to be driving vehicles less than 3 years old.


In addition, as driver age increased, vehicles were less likely to be equipped with electronic stability control (ESC) and head-protecting side airbags as standard features. Vehicles without ESC were associated with 37% higher odds of driver fatality for drivers 70 and over, while vehicles without standard head-protecting side airbags were associated with double the odds of an older driver fatality.


Sedans and hatchbacks were also more common among older drivers, with the proportion of people driving midsize passenger cars increasing and the numbers driving SUVs declining with age. Along with...

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