We have become obsessed with elderly drivers. Today’s example: this story in the Boston Globe about an 83-year-old woman who crashed through the front of a Natick liquor store. My guess is that it wouldn’t even have made the Globe a year ago.
To be sure, there are elderly drivers who should be off the road. But it’s long been known that younger drivers are more dangerous than older ones. That perspective has been entirely lacking from recent coverage.
In 2001, for instance, the Washington Post reported that the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety had found that older drivers were involved in fewer crashes than any other age group, but that the fatality rate in those crashes was higher because the elderly drivers themselves were more likely to die of their injuries. From the Post:
The studies show that older drivers kill fewer motorists and pedestrians than any other age group and have the lowest crash rates per licensed driver….
Younger drivers aged 16 to 24 had the highest accident rate, more than double the rate for older drivers.
My 95-year-old uncle continues to drive. I know that anecdotal evidence is suspect, but I think his sense of responsibility is typical of his generation. He no longer drives at night, and he’s talked about public-transportation options for the day that he should give up his license.
More-frequent testing for older drivers is probably a good idea. But coverage has grown completely out of proportion when you consider the reality of who’s the greatest menace behind the wheel.