Adolescents and people over 65, the two groups most at risk of car accidents and injuries, are more likely to drive less safe cars. This is the result of a new study by the Center for Injury Research and Prevention (CIRP) of the Children's Hospital in Philadelphia, the first large-scale nationwide analysis of vehicle safety criteria.
"Previously, survey studies had found that younger drivers were more likely to drive older, smaller and certain safety features," said Dr. Kristi Metzger, lead author of the study, in a press release. "But there hasn't been a population-based study that really explored this question for different age groups and income levels."
The study analyzed data from the New Jersey safety and health outcomes warehouse that included all accident and license details between 2010 and 2017. The researchers then compared these statistics with information from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration's product information catalog and vehicle list to identify 89% of the cars involved in accidents.
Based on the vehicle identification number (VIN) of each vehicle, the team determined the model year and type, as well as the vehicle's safety features such as electronic stability control, engine performance, and front, side and curtain airbags.
People hang on their cars longer
The researchers found that teenagers in low-income areas drove cars almost twice the age of their counterparts in more affluent areas. Similarly, older adults from high-income zip codes were 35% more likely to have vehicles with side airbags than their counterparts from low-income areas. The study also found that drivers of all ages from poorer communities were disproportionately represented in fatal accidents.
A 2018 study by the US Energy Information Administration found that household vehicle sales have slowed since 2009. Auto and Drivers Magazine estimates that households with incomes less than $ 25,000 drive 13-year-old cars, while families making more than $ 100,000 make tools in 9-year-old cars.
"All drivers should strive to be in the safest vehicle they can afford, regardless of age or income level," said Dr. Metzger, a statistical scientist with CIRP, stated in the press release. "There are many vehicles with critical safety features that won't break the bank, some for less than $ 7,000."
Both vulnerable teens and adults
Teenagers and older adults may have aging cars in common. But they take separate ramps when it comes to why both populations have been involved in so many crashes.
The main reason for adolescent accidents is inexperience behind the wheel. The National Security Council estimates that half of all teenagers will be in a car accident before graduation. "They have difficulty assessing traffic gaps, getting the right speed for the conditions and making safe turns, among other things," the NSC website said.
In 2017, 2,364 young people (16 to 19) were killed in car accidents and around 300,000 were treated for injuries in emergency rooms.
To better protect young drivers, the NSC recommends that parents enforce rules about the number of passengers in the car, driving at night, and using cell phones while driving.
Older drivers face different challenges. For starters, there are more older drivers on the road. In 2017, the CDC estimated that there were 44 million licensed drivers aged 65 and over, a 63% increase from 1999. However, the American Automobile Association says older drivers are fairly safe behind the wheel. They are buckled up, comply with speed limits, and drink and generally do not drive.
But with aging come slower reflexes, decreased eyesight, decreased flexibility, weaker muscles, and a host of other diseases and medications that can affect driving skills. As a result, if an older driver is involved in an accident, they are more likely to be injured or killed. According to the AAA, seniors, with the exception of teenage drivers, have the highest accidental death rate per mile driven, despite driving fewer miles than younger people.
What does this have to do with cars themselves? As both young people and seniors are at a higher risk of accidents, they need cars to protect them. While older cars are not only dangerous because of their age, they may not be the safest choice if they are not maintained or if they do not have safety technology like airbags. Some automakers are also working on systems that block cellphone use while driving to make driving a bit safer for those tempted to text and drive.
The study's authors noted that ways should be found to get drivers into affordable, safer, and more technologically advanced cars in order to reduce injuries and deaths in teenagers and seniors. Vehicle safety is "not exclusively linked to more expensive or new vehicles".