Laws requiring additional restrictions on driver’s licenses belonging to elderly motorists have become increasingly common in the United States due to concerns that age-impaired eyesight and physical and mental capabilities make older drivers a risk to themselves and others on the road, but a recent study conducted in the United Kingdom suggests that elderly people are less likely to die behind the wheel than in the crosswalk. Pedestrians older than 70 years of age are statistically 400 percent more likely to be killed in a traffic collision than pedestrians between the ages of 21 and 29. In the driver’s seat however, elderly motorists are not much more likely to be killed in a fatal accident than drivers in their 20s, according to the results of the University of Plymouth study which examined fatal accident data compiled from police reports from 1989 to 2009.
The odds of a motorist under the age 29 dying in a traffic accident are 13 to 100 million, researchers at the University of Plymouth determined, while drivers over the age of 70 face a 14 in 100 million chance of being killed in a fatal accident every time they get behind the wheel. There was also little difference in death rates for elderly people and young people riding as passengers in motor vehicles. Researchers concluded that in order to decrease traffic fatalities more effectively, the focus should be shifted from regulating elderly drivers to developing a more pedestrian friendly infrastructure. A previous study conducted in the United States indicated that male drivers are more dangerous at the age of 40 than at 70.
Though the auto accident death statistics were similar for younger and older drivers (with drivers in the middle of the age spectrum having the lowest odds of being killed in an accident), the pedestrian death rates varied wildly between young and old demographics. The odds of an elderly pedestrian being killed in a traffic accident are 23 out of 100 million, the researchers concluded. A study published in 2009 by the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society concluded that 37 percent of all pedestrian fatal accident victims are elderly adults, who are often frailer than younger pedestrians and more likely to die as a result of the injuries incurred in a traffic accident.
According to safety experts, many elderly pedestrians have a more difficult time judging the distance and speed of approaching vehicles than younger pedestrians, and installing traffic islands to give older adults more time to cross an intersection could save many lives.