The Age-old Debate: Are Teen Drivers Safer Than Senior Drivers?

There are parallel arguments when it comes to deciding if teens or seniors are worse drivers. Statistics point to teens as they cause more accidents than the counter age group.

In 2008, 5,864 15- to 20-year-old drivers were involved in fatal crashes. Not nearly as many as seniors.

But in argument, teens make up for a much greater portion of the driving population and drive more miles per day than seniors, who only make up 13 percent of the entire U.S. population, according to a report conducted by the National Highway Traffic Safety Association.

Seniors also have many physical disadvantages caused by age. Many factors from each age group affect road safety and car insurance costs. Read the pros and cons to each age group—you be the judge.

What Makes Teens Dangerous Drivers
There are key risk factors that make teens dangerous drivers. The first is their lack of experience.

Teens have not acquired the literal “street smarts” of the road and do not understand how the flow of traffic works. This causes them to make poor judgments, which is the second risk factor, directly leading to accidents.

Because teens are inexperienced and have not witnessed the full consequences of making poor decisions first-hand, they are more likely to take part in risky behavior like speeding.

So it makes sense that teens are the age group with the lowest seat belt use: it’s reported that 61 percent of fatal accidents by teens are caused by no seat belt. Teens are also susceptible to more distractions from the road and from modern technology like texting.

What Makes Seniors More Accident Prone
Making up the 65 and older age group of drivers, seniors definitely do not lack in the experience department, but old age and the natural deterioration of basic functions like quick responses, vision and hearing play a role in the endangerment to other drivers.

Many common senior mistakes that cause accidents are failure to yield right-of-way, confusion in traffic, back up into a vehicle, and failure to maintain proper speed, according to the state of Delaware’s website. The NHTSA also notes that some medication taken by seniors can impair their ability to drive and some seniors dependence on external factors can cause poor driving. Some signs that driving safety might be decreasing in seniors include:

  • Conflicting medications. Certain medications or combinations of medications can affect senses and reflexes. Always check the label on medications and double check with your healthcare team if you are taking several medications or notice a difference after starting a new medication.
  • Eyesight problems. Some eye conditions or medications can interfere with your ability to focus peripheral vision, or cause extra sensitivity to light, trouble seeing in the dark, or blurred vision.
  • Hearing problems. If your hearing is decreasing, you may not realize you’re missing out on important cues to drive safely.
  • Problems with reflexes and range of motion.
  • Problems with memory. While everyone has an occasional lapse, if there’s a pattern that is increasing, it’s time to get evaluated by a doctor.

Statistically, seniors do not cause more accidents than teens although there is a slight increase in accidents in the 75-79 age-range and again in the 80-84 and 85 plus.

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