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Studies: Older-model vehicles increase risk for senior drivers

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Already at an increased risk of being killed in automobile accidents due to their age, senior motorists exacerbate the risk when they drive aging vehicles, research shows.

Two studies conducted by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety discovered drivers over 70 years old were “significantly more likely” to drive vehicles that are at least 16 years old. These vehicles—often found to be smaller sedans or hatchbacks—aren’t equipped with safety features that come standard on modern cars, thus subjecting elderly motorists to higher fatality risks.

Smaller, older vehicles also have been found to expose drivers to greater forces of impact from larger vehicles, further increasing the odds of an injury or fatality.

“All these vehicle characteristics have big impacts on crash survival rates, and older drivers are more often driving the least-safe vehicles by every parameter,” said Jessica Cicchino, IIHS vice president of research and coauthor of the studies. “This only gets worse as (motorists’) age increases, since many older adults stick with a single ‘retirement vehicle’ for the remainder of their driving years.”

Cicchino noted that persuading drivers to take a closer look at their vehicles’ safety features could substantially reduce crash fatalities.

An IIHS survey of drivers over 70 years old revealed they were less likely to require that their cars have safety features such as electronic stability control or side airbags. The studies’ findings indicated vehicles without ESC contributed to a 37% increase in the likelihood of crash-related fatalities among drivers over 70.

The study also indicated advanced safety features such as blind spot monitoring, forward collision warning systems and automatic emergency braking were considered unimportant by some senior drivers.

However, Highway Loss Data Institute statistics from 2018 showed blind spot warnings reduced the frequency of collision claims by 1.5%, while front and rear collision warnings reduced collision claim frequency by 2.3% and 12% respectively.

When combined with other collision avoidance technology, IIHS concluded one-third of all reported crashes could be avoided each year.

“Thanks to the technology that comes standard on many modern vehicles, we’re seeing great potential in reducing the number of accidents on our roadways,” said David Tenembaum, actuarial manager for Virginia Farm Bureau Mutual Insurance Co.

“While the expense of buying a new car can be a concern for some seniors, advanced safety features are becoming much more common on affordable vehicles,” he added. “These IIHS studies show most drivers—regardless of age—should consider exploring newer vehicles and discovering the additional safety they provide.”


augusta free press
augusta free press