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Elderly drivers increase while teen drivers drop, study says

There are good and bad drivers in every age group. Statistically speaking, however, the two age groups that are most dangerous behind the wheel are teenagers and elderly motorists. Teenagers tend to be more likely to be involved in car accidents due to inexperience and age-related traits like impulsivity.

On the other hand, older drivers often have a lot of experience but tend to suffer from age-related maladies including failing eyesight and slower reaction times. The results of a recent study highlight trends among both of these groups that could affect auto accident rates here in California and across the country.

A recent study from the University of Michigan found that since 1983, the rate of elderly drivers has increased significantly while the rate of drivers who get their license at age 16 has declined. In 1983, only 55 percent of Americans age 70 or older continued to drive. Today, about 78 percent of Americans in this age group still have their driver’s license.

The study also showed that fewer teenagers than in the past are opting to get their license as soon as they become eligible. In 1983, about 50 percent of 16-year-olds had their driver’s license. Today, the rate of licensure among 16-year-olds has dropped to approximately 31 percent.

Neither of these statistics are predictive in and of themselves. That is to say, the car accident rate won’t necessarily skyrocket simply because there are more elderly drivers on the road. However, the trend among teen drivers does have some safety advocates concerned.

The majority of states require teen drivers to participate in a graduated driver licensing program. While each state has slightly different GDL requirements, these laws initially restrict the freedoms of newly licensed teens and then relax those restrictions as they gain experience.

But those who wait to get their license until they turn 18 do not always participate in a GDL program. This means that although they are not significantly older or any more experienced than 16-year-olds, they won’t get to take advantage of the safety net provided by GDL laws.

If the trend among teen motorists continues, states will hopefully respond by changing GDL requirements to apply to a wider age group of newly licensed drivers.


Source:, “Study shows increase in elderly drivers,” Aug. 26, 2013

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