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Study: Older drivers are more fit to drive than ever before

Many Philadelphia residents do not want to give up their car keys when they get older. Many of us link driving to our independence, and the thought of giving up this privilege is a difficult one. At the same time, as people age their children often start telling them they are no longer fit to drive. 

A recent study suggests that older Americans are actually better drivers than ever. According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, drivers over the age of 70 are less likely to get into fatal car accidents than previous generations were at the same age. In fact, the rate of fatal car accidents for this age group has dropped in recent years, even though this demographic is putting in more miles behind the wheel than they used to.

This research found that the rate of fatal car accidents for all drivers over the age of 35 declined from 1995 to 2012, but the rate fell the fastest for those over 70.

The fatal car accident rate for drivers over the age of 70 dropped 42 percent during that time period. For drivers who are middle-age, or 35 to 54, the rate decreased by only 30 percent.

Many might be wondering why older drivers are doing better than they used to. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety says that improvements in auto-safety have been particularly helpful for older drivers, and that today's older drivers are in better health and physical shape than earlier generations.

Some drivers, of course, may still need to stop driving when they get older. However, this is not simply because they are getting older; it is because some individuals develop health conditions that make it impossible for them to drive safely. Individuals should have conversations with their families and their doctors if their driving is called into question. While few people want to stop driving, it is a far better choice than putting oneself and others in harm's way.

Source: The Wall Street Journal Market Watch, "Why it pays to drive like a grandpa," Matthew Heimer, Feb. 20, 2014

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