Are Seniors Really Bad Drivers? A Look At The Facts

Are seniors really bad drivers? Test your knowledge on 12 stereotypes. It's time to sort out myths and facts.
Smiling senior couple drive a black convertible on a sunny day

You may have heard a lot of people claiming that seniors are bad drivers. But is it really true across the board?

Every generation gets a wide array of unfounded stereotypes…and the senior driver is no exception.

Some people may not like when seniors drive because they perceive them to be unsafe. They believe stereotype on senior drivers that they are more likely to have accidents or get traffic tickets. Additionally, some seniors may drive more slowly than other drivers, which can cause traffic congestion.

One way to examine this question is to look at the myths and facts about senior drivers. Senior Assistance Club has gathered the most popular stereotypes about senior drivers. Test your answers to get a better handle on sorting fact from fiction.

1. Older drivers aren’t safe drivers.

False: Older drivers are generally more experienced and therefore tend to be safer drivers. They are also more likely to follow the rules of the road and drive more cautiously than younger, inexperienced drivers. Additionally, older drivers are less likely to be distracted by things like cell phones and other electronic devices while driving.

2. Older drivers limit or cease driving, self-regulating when they experience changes in their ability to drive.

True: Most older drivers respond to changes in their ability to drive by restricting or stopping driving. Some, however, may not be aware of subtle changes. Cognitive ability may change subtly. This may be caused by normal age-related cognitive slowing, and some drivers may not recognize the shift.

3. Aging is associated with significant declines, making most seniors high-risk drivers.

False: Rate of change varies greatly amongst older adults. Changes in vision, health, physical strength, flexibility, and reaction time have a wide range of variance across individuals. Research confirms that many older drivers have similar functioning in driving skills as middle-aged drivers, who are statistically the safest group on the road.

This risk can be reduced, however, by investing in the best cars for senior citizens to make driving easier for them.

4. Older drivers limit their driving.

True: Senior drivers may limit their driving in order to stay safe. They may avoid driving at night or in bad weather, for example. Additionally, they may limit their driving to shorter distances and stick to routes that they know well.

5. Failure to yield right-of-way is the most common error by seniors involved in crashes.

True: One of the most common mistakes that senior drivers make is failing to yield the right-of-way. This can happen when they turn onto a street without looking carefully first, or when they don’t yield to pedestrians who have the right-of-way but is more common when senior drivers come into freeways.

Elderly woman drives her car

6. Inadequate surveillance is the most frequent error made by drivers 70 and older.

True: Inadequate surveillance covers looking but not seeing or failing to look. Drivers ages 70 and older were more likely than drivers ages 35-54 to make inadequate surveillance errors.

7. Intersections could be modified to reduce injury crashes for older drivers.

True: Intersections are a particular trouble spot for older drivers. Adding left-turn lanes and left-turn traffic signals are low-cost modifications. In one study, these modifications resulted in a 13% reduction in injury crashes per licensed driver 65 and older compared with drivers 25-64.

8. Roundabouts reduce vehicle speeds and eliminate some of the most complicated aspects of classic intersections.

True: In studies on intersection reconfiguring, injury crashes were reduced by 76% and were favored by 60% of drivers ages 65 and older. This is because roundabouts are safer for everyone because they force drivers to slow down and yield to oncoming traffic before entering the intersection. This decreases the chances of accidents, especially head-on collisions. Additionally, roundabouts eliminate the need for traffic signals, which can malfunction or be timed poorly, leading to accidents.

9. Older drivers prefer routes with roundabouts to conventional routes.

True: Additional features such as warning signs and directional signs may also encourage older drivers to choose routes with roundabouts over routes with conventional intersections.

10. More older drivers are dying in crashes.

False: Fewer older drivers died in crashes and fewer were involved in fatal collisions during 1998-2018 than in previous decades. The rate of fatalities per capita among older people has decreased 46% since 1975.

11. Seniors are more likely to have serious injuries or die in crashes.

True: This may be true due to physical frailty of older drivers. Also, the types of crashes they are involved with often leave them more exposed to serious injuries. This is why it’s important for older drivers to invest in auto insurance for seniors.

12. Senior drivers are the best drivers in America.

True: According to Insurify, people born between 1946-1963 are the best drivers when it comes to safe driving. This age group tends to be statistically more prudent on the roads than younger drivers. The proportion of speeding tickets is less than half the national average.

Assistance Club Summary

So, are senior drivers bad drivers? Based on studies, seniors are safe drivers compared to other age groups.

Seniors often have safe habits such as wearing safety belts, observing speed limits, and not drinking-and-driving. However, there are some normal age-related concerns such as changes in vision, health, mobility, and reaction time. With self-regulation, older drivers can limit or stop driving if they recognize changes in their ability to safely drive a vehicle.