The Baby Boomer generation is turning gray. And our parents are living longer. The growing population of our country and the world, in combination with advances in medicine, is resulting in continuing increases of our older population. People over the age of 65 will grow to approximately 50,000,000 in the year 2020, accounting for approximately 20% of the entire U. S. population.
Our workforce is aging as well. It is inevitable, based upon the changing trends in population. While age presents many benefits, it also presents new or changing risks that must be considered both for the individual and for the company.
Just what are the issues associated with the aging driver? Based upon a study prepared by the American Medical Association, there are three primary issues:
The current body of knowledge indicates that these issues become more pronounced from age 65 onward.
A review of accident statistics supports this.
Safety for older drivers is a public health issue. Motor vehicle injuries are the leading cause of injury-related deaths among 65- to 74-year olds and are the second leading cause (after falls) among 75- to 84-year olds. Compared with other drivers, older drivers have a higher fatality rate per mile driven than any other age group except drivers under the age of 25. On the basis of estimated annual travel, the fatality rate for drivers 85 and older is 9 time higher that the rate for drivers 25 to 69 years old.
There are two reasons for this excess in fatalities. First, drivers 75 years and older are involved in significantly more motor vehicle crashes per mile driven than middle-aged drivers. Second, older drivers are considerably more fragile. Fragility begins to increase at ages 60 to 64 and increases steadily with advancing age. By age 80, male and female drivers are 4 and 3.1 times more likely, respectively, than 20-year olds to die as a result of a motor vehicle crash.
As the older population in this country continues to grow, drivers aged 65 and older are expected to account for 16% of all crashes and 25% of all fatal crashes.
As drivers age, they may begin to feel limited by slower reaction times, chronic health problems, and side effects from medications. Many reduce their mileage or stop driving altogether because they feel unsafe or lose their confidence. In 1990, males over the age of 70 drove, on average, 8,298 miles, compared to 16,784 miles for males aged 20-24 years; for females, the figures were 3,976 miles and 11,807 miles, respectively.
Older drivers not only drive substantially less, but also modify when and how they drive. Older drivers may reduce their mileage by eliminating long highway trips, thus driving mainly on local roads, which often contain more hazards in the form of signs, signals, traffic congestion and confusing intersections.