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Researchers Call For Road Improvements Geared to Older Drivers

65-plus people behind the wheel are up 38 percent over the past decade

Couple driving in SUV

Ulrike Schmitt-Hartmann/Getty Images

According to the findings, despite the increase in fatal accidents involving older drivers, they are by some measurements much safer drivers than younger drivers.

Vehicle fatalities involving age 65-and-older drivers increased by 22 percent from 2012 to 2016, according to a transportation research nonprofit. But it’s not that older adults are becoming less safe on the roads.

Much of the bump comes as the result of an explosion in the total number of such drivers as well as greater longevity. The group advocates safety improvements to roadways to deal with the trend.

The report from TRIP, which analyzes national and state traffic statistics, found that the number of 65-and-older drivers increased dramatically over the decade form 2006 to 2016, from 30.1 million to 41.7 million, or 38 percent. Their proportion of the overall driving population went up from 15 to 19 percent over the same period.

The group points out that despite the increase in fatalities among accidents involving older drivers, they are by some measurements much safer drivers than much younger drivers.

“On average, drivers in their mid- to late eighties have lower crash rates per miles driven than drivers in their early twenties, and roughly half the crash rates of teenagers,” the report found.

The group advocates driving alternatives for older adults, including public transit, ride-sharing services and self-driving technology. For those who continue to drive, TRIP calls for roadway improvements, including:

  • Clearer, brighter and simpler signage with larger lettering, as well as brighter street lighting, especially at intersections. As we grow older, we need more light in general to see things clearly.
  • To address depth perception difficulties that can develop with age: widening or adding left-turn lanes and increasing the length of merge and exit lanes.
  • Rumble strips to warn motorists that they may be drifting off the roadway.

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