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Rate of fatal car crashes for seniors decreases

For a long time it is has been the conventional wisdom that older drivers are more dangerous on the road. Deteriorating vision and slower reflexes are often pointed to inevitable parts of aging that impact driving ability. However, a new study has found that older drivers (those above the age of 70) are experiencing fewer fatal accidents than before. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, which conducted the study, said that the decreased level of fatal accidents is likely attributable to safer vehicles and healthier seniors.

A variety of features are making cars safer these days, from better crash-absorption technology to back-up cameras and lane-change alerts. The improvement began to show in the mid-1990s and as of 2012 the rate of fatal crashes per licensed older driver has decreased by 42 percent.

Car accidents involving older drivers have typically been more deadly than those involving younger people in large part because older bodies are more susceptible to a serious injury during a car crash than a younger, more resilient one. There can be complicating factors like heart disease or osteoporosis that may make the impact of a car crash harder to endure.

For older people who are on the road this can mean exercising additional caution when it comes to driving long distances or driving at night. However, the responsibility does not end there, since all drivers have an obligation to be careful and act reasonably under the conditions. Drivers who cause accidents because they were being reckless or negligent can and should be held liable in a civil action.

Source: Miami Herald, “Accident rates improving for older drivers,” Joan Lowy, Feb. 24, 2014.

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