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New study finds conflicting information about elderly drivers

It is commonly held belief that teen drivers and elderly drivers are two of the most accident-prone demographics on the road. Elderly driving, in particular, has been a divisive safety topic in recent years. What is the right thing to do with elderly drivers? Should a license limit be put in place, forcing people to give up their licenses at a certain age? Should stricter requirements and tests be implemented to ensure that older drivers are safe enough to be on the road? Or should things stay the way they are, allowing people the freedom to choose whether they want to drive or not?

Well, a new study by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety doesn't do much in terms of clarifying the situation. On the one hand, the study found that elderly drivers are getting safer -- in a way. Drivers who were at least 70 years old got into fewer fatal accidents, as the fatal accident rate fell per licensed driver by 42 percent from 1997 to 2012.

That decrease was better than the rate for drivers aged 35 to 54, who saw a 30 percent decline during the same time frame for fatal wrecks.

However, in another way, the study found that elderly drivers are still a severe accident risk. The accident rate per mile driven for an individual increases starting at 70 years of age. By age 80, the driver's accident rate per mile becomes "markedly higher" than middle-aged drivers.

This is one of the critical road safety issues of our time, and it will be interesting to see if this study propels lawmakers to change any rules regarding driver's licenses.

Source: USA Today, "Study: Car crash deaths fall among elderly drivers," Feb. 22, 2014

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