by: Kirk Seaman | AOL Autos

    Picture this: You're out on the road, driving in mixed traffic with your choice of drivers to follow. One is a gray-haired senior puttering along in the right lane and the other is a fresh-faced teenager moving briskly in the left lane.

    Statistically speaking, which driver is safer to follow? The older driver with the slower reflexes, poorer vision, and cautious driving style, or the younger driver with faster reactions, better eyesight, and driving with the flow of traffic?

    The answer: Stay in the right lane, behind the oldster, and let the teenager go on his way. According to statistics from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, the safest drivers are in the age group between 64 and 69 years old. And studies of the data reveal that teenage drivers — especially male teenage drivers — are the most dangerous drivers on the road.

    "In every motorized country around the world, teenage drivers are disproportionately involved in crashes," said Dr. Anne McCartt, senior vice president for research at the Institute. "The seriousness of this problem has been recognized for decades. Only in the last few years have public policies such as graduated driving licenses been enacted to address the situation. And those laws seem to be working, but fatalities are still high."

    Statistics Say Seniors are Safer

    In 2008, 5,864 15- to 20-year-old drivers were involved in fatal crashes. That's the bad news. The good news is that number is down by 27 percent since 1998. Driver fatalities for this age group also decreased by 20 percent in the same time period.

    However, motor vehicle crashes still remain the major cause of death for teenagers. In 2008, 2,739 15- to 20-year-old drivers were killed and an additional 228,000 were injured in motor vehicle crashes. Sixty percent of deaths among passenger vehicle occupants ages 16-19 were drivers.

    Who would you rather ride in a car with?

    Senior drivers, like teenage drivers, have higher crash rates per mile driven, especially when it comes to fatal crashes. But seniors don't drive as many miles, so a better measurement of their susceptibility to accidents can be had by comparing crash rates on a per capita basis. Looking at the numbers in this way shows senior drivers have much lower crash rates. Despite their increased risk of crashing per mile driven, relatively few elderly drivers are involved in accidents because of their lower rates of exposure. In addition, the rate of fatalities per capita among seniors has decreased 40 percent since 1975 and is now at its lowest level during this period.

    Let’s look at the numbers. In 2008, 15- to 20-year-old drivers made up 8.5 percent of the U.S. population, yet accounted for 12 percent of occupant deaths among all ages in passenger vehicle (cars, pickups, SUVs, and vans). Per mile driven, teen drivers ages 16 to 19 are four times more likely than older drivers to crash. Drivers from 65 to 69 years old made up 3.7 percent of the population, but accounted for just 3.2 percent of all fatal crashes.

    Risky Business

    Major risk factors contributing to teenage crashes are those you would expect, including:

    Lack of experience. Teens are more likely than older drivers to underestimate dangerous situations or not be able to recognize hazardous situations.

    Poor judgment. Teens are more likely than older drivers to speed and allow shorter headways (the distance from the front of one vehicle to the front of the next).

    Low seat belt usage. Compared with other age groups, teens have the lowest rate of seat belt use. In 2007, 61 percent of all 15- to 20-year-old passenger vehicle occupants killed in fatal crashes were not wearing seat belts.

    Preventing Teenage Driving Injuries

    "Almost all states have adopted some form of graduated driver licensing," said Dr. McCartt. "These laws are proving effective in reducing teenage crashes."

    Graduated driver licensing (GDL) systems are designed to delay full licensure while allowing teens to get their initial driving experience under low-risk conditions. Research suggests that the most comprehensive of these programs are associated with reductions of 38 percent and 40 percent in fatal and injury crashes, respectively, among 16-year-old drivers.

    "When parents know their state's GDL laws, they can help enforce the laws and, in effect, help keep their teen drivers safe," said Dr. McCartt.

    One of the reasons for their safer driving statistics is that seniors tend to be more aware of their limitations and drive accordingly. "There may be several factors as to why seniors appear to be safer drivers, one of which may be that most teens are novice drivers and seniors have been at it a lot longer," said Patricia Swift-Oladeinde, spokeswoman at the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. "But regardless of each person's ability, NHTSA encourages all drivers to solely focus on driving when behind the wheel. After all, one distraction can be one too many," she said.

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    1 - 20 of 354 Comments
    kareningod Oct 24, 2010 7:45 PM
    My grand daughter just started driving about 6 months. She is a very careful driver and always uses her seatbelt and never uses her cell phone and never texting while behind the wheel of her car. I would drive with her before I would drive with most people, and always makes turns using her signals and does not tailgate.How would you think I would rate my grand daughters DRIVING? - A+++++++++++++++. Now what about other teen drivers. I would be very nervous.
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    crabbo7 Oct 23, 2010 11:41 PM
    now most people young or old think that they are hi speed wheelers..but if you are not then buy the fastest car you can afford and drive it slow...fast cars have bigger brakes, better tires,and better handeling than you average economy car...so the worst driver you are, the better car you need!! you don't have to drive fast, but if you keep making mistakes, the fast car can help you overcome them!!!
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    crabbo7 Oct 23, 2010 11:35 PM
    i think that teen drivers are the safest,and i am 66 years old!! the problem is with the driver education system that are in high schools, an the lame brain dead driving tests.. teens have better eyesight, faster reaction time, better hand eye co-ordination, the only thing that they lack is experience... now if "daddy" would take junior out and teach him how to drift the family car. or make a boot legger turn, or a hi speed twirl then junior or miss hischool would know what move to make to avoid an accident...without those hispeed maneuvers under your belt you are just pointing the car not driving it!! yea show your kids how to do a fuel burn, or an emergency brake spin, and they will have so much fun driving that they won't answer their cell!!!!!
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    devnmidian Jun 10, 2010 7:04 PM
    Well, I live in Columbia, South Carolina, where it's my observation that the majority of drivers drive like idiots. Young, old, middle aged, men and women are all equally problematic. In my opinion, the road test here is simply not an accurate measure of a driver's skill. Road tests NEED to be re-taken from time to time. I also find that in many major metropolitan areas I've visited (Charlotte, Atlanta, Orlando, Miami, NYC, etc.), everyone thinks that THEIR destination is simply the most important and drives accordingly. Everyone is in a hurry, regardless of age, and they will drive like a bat out of hell to get where they're going just a couple minutes sooner. The Jersey turnpike at rush hour is one of the best examples of this I've ever witnessed, with everyone driving at least 10 to 15 miles over the speed limit and bumper to bumper. That said, I know that I drove too fast when I was a teen. I did receive numerous tickets, but always drove skillfully when on the road. The only accidents I ever caused as a teen were stupid mistakes in parking lots (not looking carefully, backing out faster than necessary, etc.). As I got older, I realized that all the speeding really didn't get me where I was going much faster, it just got me to the next red light sooner (and cost me a good bit in traffic tickets). Now I own a Firebird Formula and generally don't drive it as fast as I did the Ford Taurus my grandfather bought me when I got my license.
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    lauracambria Jun 03, 2010 7:42 AM
    Seniors are the most dangerous drivers on the road. It's not that they drive "slowly and cautiously", it's that they drive dangerously . Every single day I see many seniors stopping in the middle of the road for no reason, driving over curbs in parking lots, driving over the lines, etc. And they never stop doing what the're doing, realizing they made a mistake. They keep on trying to get over that curb because of their stubbornness. Talk about high risk behavior. Yes, texting is a big problem with teenagers. ******** new and laws are being developed to stop it. So how do you stop a senior driver from driving dangerously......require them to take a mandatory driving test every year.
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    cherrytreetwo May 30, 2010 1:29 PM
    Seniors may be statistically safer drivers. What we dont know is how may accidents they cause indirectly, by many of them driving erratically and forcing other drivers to drive defensively around them. Both my mother and father and my father-in-law continued to drive well past 65. You dont know how many times I drove with them and the only reason we were not involved in an accident was because another driver, sometimes a teen, was able to drive defensively around them. When some of these people honked at them they often wondered why. To solve the problem of unsafe drivers on the road, I think everyone should have to take the driving test every five years. When it is taken the fee for the drivers license that year should be higher to cover the cost of the driving test. This would, in my opinion, reduce accidents on the road more than anything else we do.
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    themanindbox May 29, 2010 5:18 PM
    What age group of seniors? Because last i checked a senior may be someone over the age of 55.. At 55 i would rather drive with the 55 year old, but i would take a 19yr old over a 75yr old any day..
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    e5sar1 May 28, 2010 4:01 PM
    Senior drivers are better drivers if they have all their wits and are in relative good health. Teens are not good driver because they lack experience and they think just because they have passed the test for a licence they are qualified race track drivers you know the race track mentality or to arrogant to use the brain they have. Cars are lethal weapons they kill when used by careless, uncaring people. Anyone can press the metal to the pedal, Whats the big deal, To experienced drivers a teen taligating,weaving in and out of traffic and speeding shows just how juvenile the driver is. Oh yes they should take nascar off the sports networks.
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    bofustoo May 25, 2010 7:39 PM
    I'm one of those guys that drives a mile or less under the speed limit. When younger I was freqently asked why I didn't "push the limie"? Told the questioner, "If I want to go fast, I fly my plane" If I get bored doing that, I fly it upside down". If you want to "fly", Learn to. BO
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    blskiv May 25, 2010 6:49 PM
    I am a senior driver, almost 89, and have been driving since I was 16. The only accident I ever had wasn;'t my fault. Some one pulled out of a driveway of a garage parking lot and hit me with little damage. I have had only one speeding ticket. Teenage girls scare me with their tailgating when they see an old gray haired lady ahead of them. They are usually on the cell phone or texting. Now I only drive 10,000 miles a year. I have been fortunate and CAREFUL.
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    mrsdak May 25, 2010 5:40 PM
    I am also an active senior (60 years old), and I am in favor of a mandatory, nationwide, license renewal process where anyone over the age of 65, must pass a written and a road test to renew their driver's license. Any parent knows that teens don't always have the foresight and experience necessary to avoid collisions. Seniors don't always have the peripheral vision or the reaction time to avoid collisions. The bottom line - all teens should have graduated licenses ( no driving after dark, no more than one passenger, etc) like California has had since the 90's. All drivers 65 and old should be tested every 3-5 years. The result?? Lower insurance premiums and longer lives for all of us. Share the road, and drive friendly.
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    hagbardii May 25, 2010 5:10 PM
    The REAL problem is the very old drivers. I had an 89-year-old patient who totaled her car in her driveway. How the hell do you do that? Before that, she once drove out of the parking lot with her passenger door open. Scary.
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    braverunaway May 25, 2010 5:01 PM
    The hilarious part is that everyone I know who has been in a wreck has been hit (******** - implying it was the other driver's fault) by some 90 year old who literally has no business being behind a wheel. I literally know no one who has been permanently damaged (physically) by a teenager. Additionally, I call your methodology completely into question when you try to make a statistical statement about 16 year olds and apply that to younger people across the board. So my guess is you're being paid off by AARP.
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    rochellealford May 25, 2010 4:32 PM
    This subject came up recently among 7 couples (all between 60 & 72). Not one of them had caused or been involved in an accident in more than 12 years. The collective 17 teen grandchildren (ages 16-19 )all had accidents within the first year of being issued a driver's license. Anecdotal for sure but food for thought. I've been involved in 4 accidents since I started driving in l961. The first accident I was 19 and my fault. The rest....all teen crashes into my vehicle from following too close and/or speeding. As an active senior I have driven over 70,000 miles in the past 2 yrs.
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    carinelson May 25, 2010 2:40 PM
    Think about this: If you live long enough, you will be one of those geezers!
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    woodtoyz May 25, 2010 2:31 PM
    One of the "risky Business" factors the author forgot is driving while distracted. The police really need to crack down on people on cell phones!
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    calvinmurphy5040 May 24, 2010 12:34 AM
    Yeah, but there is more young drivers then old ones this poll should be done by comparative Levels buy fractionating out the statistics to a equal level not Per Capita of course thier would be more young people having accidents their is more of them. That like saying More house painted white get hit buy lightning then a house painted Highway Orange that because their are more White houses then Highway Orange ones. Any body ....... ahem..... young enough to remember their high school math classes would know this.
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    romeodiscos4u May 23, 2010 10:58 PM
    its almost always a younger driver tailgating you, no respect at all age 16-29
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    romeodiscos4u May 23, 2010 10:52 PM
    danny follows the teen because hes a speed demon and got a bad traffic record too lol
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    bodygwordpress May 21, 2010 8:45 AM
    mrpushrod1 got it right - "Kids drive junk" Look, don't spoil your teenagers, but if you're going to allow them to drive their own car, then get them something dependable, safe, and maneuverable. I look back on the old beat-up junk I drove when I was younger and it's amazing I'm alive. I drive a 2008 Pontiac Torrent (Chevy Equinox Clone), a boring rig to say the least but even it has ESC, Traction control, and massive 4 wheel disc brakes. In about 10 years, some teenager will probably be driving it to school, but it'll be better than the 1987 Suzuki Samurai that I had for my first car. There are good late model used cars out there that are a good deal. Some cars simply have poor resale. Check out a rental car company. They usually sell cars after 1 or 2 years. They have big safe cars too. Pick one up and put an extended warranty on it. Don't put your kids in a death trap! http://healthhealth.devhub.com
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    Which driver is safer to follow? The older driver with the cautious driving style, or the younger driver driving with the flow of traffic?


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