Car insurance company statisticians and actuaries, along with members of the US Department of Transportation were warning of a coming tsunami of senior drivers in the early 2000’s. One of the predictions was 2015 would be a watershed year of fatal crashes involving senior drivers.
What the actuaries and statisticians got right is that we now have more drivers on the road age 70 and older than at any time in our driving history. The predictions of a huge spike in driving fatalities, however, were dead wrong (pun intended!). In 2004, there were 6,239 crash related fatalities involving drivers 65 or older. The prediction for 2010 was 7,721 elderly related traffic fatalities. Instead there were 5,590 with a small increase in 2013 to 5,924.
Aging baby boomers are redefining what older drivers look like. Boomers are living longer than their parents and are stronger and in better health than the statisticians anticipated. In addition cars are safer than they were even 10 years ago with a plethora of airbags and crash avoidance systems including lane departure warning, variable speed control, and automatic braking systems. Seniors are also taking driver refresher courses to stay sharp and avoid accidents.
While this is good news for senior drivers, they are involved in more fatal accidents than any other age group. The number of crash related fatalities fell 24% for all age groups from 2004 to 2013. Traffic related fatalities for drivers aged 70 and older, however, fell only 15% in that same time period. The question most experts are asking is what will happen over the next 35 years as the number of drivers age 70 and above hits 64 million, or 16% of all drivers on the road?
I think there are several trends underway that bode well for senior drivers enabling them to drive safely into their 80s and beyond.
Car Technology: An ever increasing array of safety equipment is being released for most vehicles. Currently available technology includes blind spot notification, more airbags, second collision brake assist (see https://wiseinsurancegroup.com/6-car-safety-technologies-available-now/), automatic seat belt tensioners, road departure mitigation, and more. While these technologies are found on the higher end models, I expect many will become standard equipment on all models as the prices decrease.
Self-Driving Cars: Autonomous vehicles are in active testing in several states. Several automakers will be ready to release these cars in the next 2 to 10 years. While Google’s self-driving cars have been involved in 13 or 14 accidents thus far, all of the accidents were caused by human driven vehicles.
Healthcare Advances: Most boomers are in better health and living more active lifestyles than their parent’s generation. New medications and research should help keep aging boomers physically and even mentally sharp for years to come.
What will be interesting to see is how car insurance companies respond. The highest premiums charged are for drivers age 16 to 19. This is no surprise as this age group is involved in more accidents than any other age group. The second highest group appears to be senior drivers age 80 and above (see https://wiseinsurancegroup.com/who-pays-more-for-car-insurance/).
If the current trend of lower fatal crashes for senior drivers remains steady or drops, and there is a similar lower incidence of non-fatal crashes, then I would expect to see car insurance rates drop over the next five years or so for senior drivers. What do you think? Share your thoughts, questions, or experiences with me on our Google +, Facebook, or LinkedIn pages. I’d love to hear from you!