Teen drivers are more likely to be the cause of their own accidents than more seasoned motorists because they lack maturity and driving experience. Immaturity is evident in such risky practices as tailgating and speeding. Jim Tornetta, president of CollisionMax, says, "Many teens are ill-equipped to handle emergency driving maneuvers, and the majority of teen injuries and fatalities come about in single-vehicle crashes." He continues, "They simply lose control of the car and cannot recover in time." Alcohol, cell phones, loud music and distractions from other teenage passengers are also significant contributing factors to teen crashes.
Although they typically wear their seat belts, drive the speed limit, and rarely take risks on the road, senior citizens' crash rates have skyrocketed. Highway deaths for motorists under 65 have dropped 3 percent since 1995, to 33,659 last year. Among seniors, however, deaths jumped 15 percent over the same period, to 8,141 last year. During the past two decades, the fatality rate of senior drivers has also risen.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates that fatalities among elderly drivers will increase faster than their population, to more than 23,000 annually - 63 deaths a day - by 2030. Although they don't drive as recklessly as some younger motorists, seniors have difficulty with reaction times, reading road signs and judging distances.
States are struggling for an answer to senior driving issues. Florida is enlarging some highway street signs from 12 inches to 36 to accommodate the weaker vision of its 2.9 million elderly drivers. Nine states are considering legislation that requires doctors to report serious medical conditions afflicting seniors to motor-vehicle authorities. Officials could then order new driving tests or revoke licenses.
Although there is no easy answer, government agencies are introducing new programs to help teens and seniors become better drivers. With a little work, the roads will be safer for motorists of all ages.