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More Baby Boomers Hit the Road

At least we are young at heart. Next year is the first in which baby boomers will be 65 years old. And by 2025, nearly one in five drivers will be 65 or older. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), by the year 2030, the number of licensed drivers over 65 will reach 57 million.

On its website NHTSTA describes the ways aging affects elderly drivers. "Safe elderly drivers require the complex coordination of many different skills. The physical and mental changes that accompany aging can diminish the abilities of elderly drivers. These include: slowdown in response time; loss of clarity in vision and hearing; loss of muscle strength and flexibility; drowsiness due to medications; and reduction in the ability to focus or concentrate."

Over the past decade,elderly driver deaths have dropped substantially. In fact, the number of drivers age 70 or older involved in fatal accidents declined by 20 percent. But beneath that positive statistic lies a less benign one. A driver over the age of 70 is three times as likely to sustain a fatal automobile injury compared to someone 35 to 54 years old.

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) acknowledges that specific physical, cognitive and visual abilities decline as people age, but IIHS adds that age alone is not sufficient to judge a driver's ability. Reasons for older drivers' crashes varied with age. Those 70 to 79 were more likely to see another vehicle, but they misjudged whether there was time to proceed. Drivers 80 and older predominantly failed to see the other vehicle.

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