The driving habits and reflexes of eldery drivers is a perennial controversy in many states. But a vast majority of senior drivers -- 85 percent, to be exact -- rated their driving as "excellent" or "good" according to a recent survey undergone by the University of Alabama at Birmingham, reported UPI.

The drivers, aged 65 to 91 with a mean age of 74, were remarkably laudatory of their skills, with less than 1 percent of responders rating their driving as "fair" and none rating it as "poor."

Lesley Ross, the study's author, and her colleagues analyzed data from the Maryland Motor Vehicle Administration regarding 350 older drivers who were asked about state-reported crashes and other incidents over a 5-year period. Drivers were then asked to rate their driving skills at the end.

Studies like this are on the rise. In the next 20 years the number of elderly drivers (persons 70 and over) is predicted to triple in the United States. As age increases, older drivers generally become more conservative on the road, according to www.smartmotorist.com. Many mature drivers modify their driving habits (for instance to avoid busy highways or night-time driving) to match their declining capabilities. However, statistics show that older drivers are more likely than younger ones to be involved in multi-vehicle crashes, particularly at intersections, smartmotorist.com reports.

Research on age related driving shows that drivers, at around the age of 65, face an increased risk of being involved in a vehicle crash. After age 75, the risk of driver fatality increases sharply, because older drivers are more vulnerable to both crash related injury and death. Three behavioral factors contribute: poor judgment in making left-hand turns; drifting within the traffic lane; and decreased ability to change behavior in response to an unexpected or rapidly changing situation.

Interestingly, Ross and her colleagues found that self-rated driving ability had no correlation with a history of crashes or other incidents on the road. The study also found that senior men were more likely to be involved in incidents on the road, yet were less likely to be told to stop driving by family, friends or physicians.

So what does it all mean?

The study suggests that senior citizens may not have a solid grip on the reality of their driving skills, since those surveyed didn't seem to take a history of crashes/incidents into account when rating their driving.

"A large debate in driving research is whether or not at-risk drivers can self-regulate, and thus possibly reduce their crash risk. This research indicates that, at least for this sample, a previous history of four adverse driving outcomes has no relationship with self-reported driving ability, thus possibly indicating a lack of awareness in regards to driving abilities," Ross said in a statement.