07/25/18   |   By

Teens or Seniors: Who’s More Dangerous Behind the Wheel?

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Auto accidents kill tens of thousands of people every year in the United States. No age group is safe. Two demographic groups in particular, however, seem to be at elevated risk: teenagers and the elderly. We’ve all heard awful stories involving both types of drivers—for instance, teens texting and blowing through red lights into oncoming traffic, and confused seniors slamming the accelerator instead of the brake, leading to tragic consequences.

But what can an objective assessment tell us? Are teens more dangerous behind the wheel, or are senior citizens? Let’s look at the data.

Teenage Drivers

Per CDC statistics from 2015, the government reported 2,333 16-19-year-old fatalities and 235,845 emergency room visits related to teen auto accidents. What caused these outcomes? Primarily, the usual suspects: texting, distractions, and underestimating driving risks. Teenage drivers are also more likely to speed and perform risky driving maneuvers than adult drivers.

Around 15% of reported teen auto accidents involved a driver with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) over the legal limit. Teenagers are also less likely than the general population to drive with a seat belt—this act of carelessness significantly increases their risk of death. In general, teenage drivers take more risks, obey traffic laws less, and follow fewer safety precautions.

Elderly Drivers

In 2015, over 6,800 older Americans died in automobile accidents, and over 260,000 went to the emergency room after crashes. Statistics reveal that elderly drivers have more vision problems and slower reaction times than the general population. These issues can increase their risk of accidents, regardless of their safety precautions. In fact, drivers 65 and older killed in accidents wear their seatbelts 60% of the time.


In terms of raw numbers, elderly drivers get into more car accidents. However, there are more total senior drivers than teens on the road—they represent one out of every six licensed drivers.

Per Consumer Reports, “Mile for mile, the crash rate for drivers ages 16 and 17, for example, is almost nine times as high as that for middle-aged drivers. People 80 and older are involved in 5.5 times as many fatal crashes per mile driven as middle-­aged drivers… Teens struggle with inexperience behind the wheel and ­developing brains that might not accurately assess risks. [For] older drivers… age-related conditions can impede their driving ability. And when a crash happens, their fragility leads to more severe outcomes.”

Did someone in your life get hurt in an auto accident involving a teenage driver or senior? Our experienced Washington D.C. auto accident injury attorneys can explain your rights and fight for justice in your case. Contact us now for help.



Regan Zambri Long
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