Has it been statistically or empirically proven that elderly drivers (65 and over) are responsible for more accidents than any other age group?

Some offer figures such as:

In 2001 drivers over 70 were involved in fewer crashes per 100,000 population than those 16 to 54 and almost half as many as those 21 to 24.

While others:

However, statistics show that older drivers are more likely than younger ones to be involved in multi-vehicle crashes, particularly at intersections.

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    When I saw that picture, I knew this would be good, so I gave +1 before reading your question (which is also good, by the way). Jun 13, 2011 at 8:10
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    Total #, Per mile drive, per driver....? Elderly people are less likely to drive and drive less miles, so I'm just wondering what metric you want to use to measure "cause" Jun 13, 2011 at 19:36
  • The two quotes aren't actually contradictory. Jun 14, 2011 at 12:51
  • @David, no they are not contradictory, but in researching this, I found so many different permutations of data which seemed to be used deliberately to slant opinion one way or the other, it made my attempts to compare claims of different sources quite a headache. After a while, I couldn't consider what I'd found reliable, so I asked here. Jun 17, 2011 at 18:44

2 Answers 2



In general, elderly drivers account for fewer accidents, as you correctly pointed out in your question. However, as age increases, fatality rate increases drastically.

Between April 2001 and March 2002, the rate of fatal crash involvement per 100 miles driven for older drivers was higher than any other age group besides teenagers (See graph 4). The over 85 age group had the highest [rate].

On closer inspection, it turns out the higher fatality rate of crashes involving the elderly is due to their own fragility.

Per licensed driver, drivers 75 and older kill fewer pedestrians, bicyclists, motorcyclists, and occupants in other vehicles compared with drivers aged 30-59. The majority of the harm caused by elderly drivers is inflicted on themselves and on other elderly passengers, as 75% of people who die in crashes involving elderly drivers are either an elderly passenger or driver themselves.

So elderly drivers do not cause the most accidents. And regarding the accidents they do cause, they are a bigger threat to themselves than to pedestrians or passengers of other cars. Check out the source for some interesting graphs regarding these statistics.


  • I saw this claim "The over 85 age group had the highest, with a rate of 14.5%" almost fell off my chair. An 85 year old driving around for 4 hours has a 1 in 7 chance of being in a fatal accident?! No, by their own data, 740 accidents in 5,097,372,229 miles travelled is only 0.00145% chance. Makes me dubious about the rest of the (uncredited) fact sheet, published by a US Senator.
    – Oddthinking
    Jun 13, 2011 at 15:21
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    @Oddthinking I read the claim to be 14.5% is per MILLION Miles
    – Chad
    Jun 13, 2011 at 16:10
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    @Oddthinking you're right, that does seem misleading. Edited. @Chad is correct, the figure is fatal crash involvements per million miles driven. And the US Senator cites his sources which, for the facts I quoted, is the more reliable Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.
    – smackcrane
    Jun 13, 2011 at 16:21
  • -1 - Your only source is a politicians website... Jun 14, 2011 at 3:44
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    @Chad, @discipulus: I agree that's what it should be. I also feel that discipulus quoted accurately from the report - it is the report itself that is misleading, when the sentence is read in context. Maybe I am being too harsh on the original report author though for letting through a sentence that could be too easily misinterpreted.
    – Oddthinking
    Jun 14, 2011 at 5:47


Older drivers make up 15% of the licensed drivers, but only 12% of the drivers involved in fatal crashes. Older drivers are usually the ones who get hit in an fatal accidents with younger drivers. Men vs. women is a much sharper divide than old vs. young.

Source. This is current (2009) data.

The 2001 version of this is the source data for the original quote, but 2001 data is getting pretty old if you are talking about current trends. In fact, this paper shows a chart from 2001-2009, and there are drastic decreases across just that time period.

Caveat: You could reasonably argue that stats should be per mile driven rather than per person, but the original question just stated "more accidents".

There is also a young driver's version.

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    would you like to summarise what that report says, with respect to the question? Does it support or contradict the claim?
    – Oddthinking
    Jun 14, 2011 at 5:49
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    @Oddthinking, added a summary, though the report is worth reading since it is a 5 page summary of the raw data itself. Jun 14, 2011 at 12:55

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