According to a recent study published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, elderly drivers are no more likely to die in a car accident than drivers in their twenties. Researchers at the University of Plymouth in the United Kingdom examined UK police records on all fatal road accidents reported between 1989 and 2009. The researchers found that the risk of being involved in a fatal car accident was similar for older adult drivers and younger drivers every time they got into the car. For drivers under 29 years of age, thirteen in 100 million driving trips ended in fatality, compared to fourteen in 100 million trips for drivers over age 70. As to passengers and drivers, risk was highest at both ends of the age spectrum and dipped among middle-aged individuals.
Researchers also examined figures for pedestrian fatalities and found that the risk of being killed as a pedestrian was five times higher for older adults than for the young. Among older adults, 23 trips in every 100 million were fatal, which accounted for 37 percent of all pedestrian deaths in 2009.
According to Jonathan Rolison, the study’s lead researcher, people often assume that older adults are more dangerous than younger drivers due to reduced eyesight and cognitive abilities. In fact, there has been a shift in recent years in both the United States and the United Kingdom toward more stringent license-renewal processes for older adult drivers. Rolison said that this study shows that people should not assume that older adults should avoid driving because statistics show that these individuals will not necessarily be safer walking down the street. Instead, Rolison and other experts agree that emphasis should be placed on keeping older adults safe as passengers and pedestrians, rather than restricting them as drivers.