Time to take an honest look at driver facts

It’s funny sometimes how myths are born. And how hard–or even impossible–it is to dispel them, even when faced with the facts.
For example, the myths surrounding the older driver.
Once again last week, our national bias on this topic surfaced in an Associated Press article titled “How Old Is Too Old for Drivers?”
Although the article tried to be fair, the isolated incidents of 80-something drivers who had serious accidents were enough to strike fear into any younger heart.
Unfortunately, something as serious as the slaughter on the highways can never be addressed by an illustration of one. We can address the problem only by a hard look at the undeniable facts proven by accurately collected and reported statistics.
And the statistics on road fatalities do not indict the older driver.
Compare these two statistics, for example
•39 percent of all fatal crashes involve alcohol, and three of every 10 Americans can expect to be involved in an alcohol-related accident in their lifetimes; and
•only one percent of all fatal crashes involve persons over the age of 85.
Honestly now, which problem should we be addressing–drunk driving or senior driving?
Or take this–large trucks make up three percent of all registered vehicles yet 12 percent of all traffic fatalities involve large trucks and 78 percent of truck-related fatalities are occupants of cars.
And persons over 70 are disproportionately killed in truck-related accidents. The reason, according to the experts? Older persons conscientiously obey the speed limit on the highways and trucks seldom do.
So what should we do? Force the over-70s off the interstate system or force the trucking industry to obey the speed limits?
In regard to older driver involvement in fatal accidents, consider the following. Persons over age 70 make up 10 percent of all licensed drivers yet they are involved as drivers in only 8.7 percent of fatal accidents.
As for danger to the elderly themselves, persons over 70 account for 13.2 percent of driver fatalities while those over 70 account for 13.5 percent of occupant fatalities and 18.4 percent of pedestrian fatalities.
Conclusion–although it may be dangerous for over-70s to drive, it’s more dangerous for them to ride in a car. And much more dangerous for them to walk.
Then consider these statements. The California Office of Traffic Safety currently is preparing for what it calls a “Youthquake”–a huge increase in teen population–that is projected to increase the cost of accidents from $2.3 billion per year to $14.3 billion by 2007.
The U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reports that “For drivers of both sexes, the number of crash involvements decreases steadily from the youngest to the oldest age group.”
No one questions the importance of keeping the highways safe. But it must be done by seriously addressing the real causes of highway fatalities. High speed driving of all vehicles (and of large trucks in particular). Teen drivers. Alcohol. Lack of seat belt use. Aggressive driving.
And above all, we must always remember that if all 85 and up drivers were removed from the highways forever, we would see a decrease of just one percent of total fatalities.
While 99 percent would remain.
So what about you? are you willing to face the facts about older drivers and help end the prejudice?

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