There are over 253,000,000 cars and trucks on American roads. On average, these vehicles are 11 years old. In the case of teen drivers, many teens are just a few years older than the vehicles they drive. The age of a driver, the age of the driver’s vehicle, alcohol, and health affect the likelihood that a driver will experience an automobile accident.
Automobile accidents are a leading cause of death for teenagers. In 2013, 2,163 teen drivers between the ages of 16 and 19 were killed in automobile accidents. A further 243,243 were treated for injuries suffered in automobile accidents. Extrapolated, it means that 6 teens die, and 666 teens are injured each and every day.
It’s a growing concern as young drivers between the ages of 15 and 24 comprise only 14% of the total US population. However, they account for approximately 30% of the medical expenses incurred from injuries sustained during automobile accidents.
Per mile driven, Chicago accident lawyers know that teen drivers are 3 times more likely to be involved in an automobile accident than drivers over the age of 20. Causative factors behind teen accident rates include:
- Lack of experience and training. Teen drivers do not have the experience behind the wheel to react to driving conditions, other drivers, or emergency situations. Further, as was the case of Chicago teen Anthony Sanfratello who died this past month, nearly 55% of teens killed in automobile accidents die because they neglect seatbelt use.
- Alcohol. It’s estimated that 1 in 10 teen drivers drink and drive. Teen drivers whose Blood Alcohol Content (BAC) is greater than .08 are 17 times more likely to be involved in a fatal car accident. Nationally, the CDC estimates that there are 2.4 million incidents of teenage drinking and driving every month. While teenage drinking and driving rates are declining, it’s still claiming lives.
- Vehicle Age. Older vehicles do not have many of the safety features new vehicles are equipped with. Further, the safety features they contain have aged and may malfunction in an accident. Coupled with the fact that many older vehicles are not properly maintained, it creates a situation where many teen drivers are driving “death traps.”
At the other end of the spectrum are America’s aging drivers. In 2012, there were 36 million drivers over the age of 65 registered in the United States. This is a 34% increase from 1999. These numbers are increasing as Americans live longer and seek ways to maintain their mobility longer
Americans are living and driving longer. Thus, it’s not surprising that an average of 15 elderly drivers are killed, and 586 are injured in automobile accidents each day. The possibility an older driver will be involved in an automobile accident increases significantly after age 70. It is highest among drivers who are 85 years or older.
Per mile driven, elderly drivers are at increased risk for automobile accidents because of the following:
- Age Related Illness. Heart attacks, strokes, diminished vision, sudden loss of motor function, and disabling mental conditions impact a driver’s ability to react to road conditions. A driver’s health has a direct impact on the likelihood they will be involve in an automobile accident.
- Vehicle Age. As with teen drivers, elderly drivers tend to drive older vehicles. If an elderly driver neglects maintenance such as changing worn tires, repairing suspension, etc., it can make their vehicle unsafe to drive.
- Alcohol. Older drivers are less likely to drink and drive than other demographics. The CDC’s statistics show that only 7% of older drivers have a BAC greater than the legal limit when alcohol is a factor in a fatal car accident. For comparison, that rate is 24% for drivers between the ages of 21-64.
Habits that Reduce Accident Rates
The CDC and National Highway Traffic Safety Administration recommend the following to reduce accidents among teens and elderly drivers:
- Not drinking and driving. Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) recommends reinforcing this rule with younger drivers. It’s also important for elderly drivers to recognize how alcohol impacts them as their bodies age and metabolize alcohol at a slower rate.
- Making Maintenance a Priority. A well-maintained vehicle is less likely to be involved in a fatal car accident. The CDC estimates that neglected maintenance is a factor in 12-13% of all automobile accidents. As such, drivers should check brakes, tires, suspension, and steering systems regularly.
- Self-Awareness. Knowing when a driver is too tired, too ill, or otherwise physically unable to drive is critical to reducing accident rates for all demographics. The NHTSA estimates that driver fatigue causes over 100,000 accidents each year. Many of these are the result of drivers taking medication that makes them drowsy. Further, drivers whose eyesight, mental capacity, or physical limitations make driving dangerous should consider whether they have the physical ability to operate a motor vehicle.