Older driver fatalities on the rise

News December 07, 2000
Printer-friendly version





The number of older drivers--aged 70 and above--killed in crashes nationwide is increasing at the same time overall highway fat

The number of older drivers--aged 70 and above--killed in crashes nationwide is increasing at the same time overall highway fatalities are declining.


A new study by The Road Information Program (TRIP), shows the number of older drivers killed in motor vehicle accidents increased from 2,387 in 1989 to 3,307 in 1999--a 39% increase. At the same time, overall traffic fatalities dropped from 45,582 in '89 to 41,345 in '99--a 9% decline.


The TRIP report, "Traffic Safety And Older Americans: Making Roads Safer For Motorists," also identified specific roadway improvements that can help reduce older driver fatalities. Among those improvements are clearer signage and larger lettering on signs; overhead indicators for turning lanes; better street lighting; and turn lanes of adequate width at intersections.


"It makes sense to improve lighting, have better signage and separate left-turn lanes with adequate width at intersections because those improvements help address problem areas that older drivers have," said Will Wilkins, TRIP's executive director.


Recent federal reports on the needs of older drivers have found the aging process gradually leads to deteriorating visual acuity, slower reaction times, losses in information processing ability and reduced neck and upper body flexibility. Problems for older drivers often come at intersections, merging and weaving and interpreting a variety of traffic signs and signals. In fact, for drivers aged 80 or above, more than half of all fatal accidents occur at intersections, compared to one in four for drivers less than 50 years old.


Wilkins said making needed roadway safety improvements would become increasingly important in the years ahead.


"As our nation's population continues to age in the years ahead, it will become increasingly important that we make the kind of roadway safety improvements that can help reduce accidents and save the lives of all drivers as well as older drivers," he said.


Overlay Init