Battle of the Ages: Older Drivers vs. Young Drivers

Your family is together at a birthday party when you realize that you don't have any candles for the cake. You say you'll go get some, and your Grandpa says he could use some fresh air and offers to take you to the store. Then your cousin who just got his license says he wants to practice his driving skills and will give you a ride. Who should you go with?

According to statistics, one of these drivers is a safer bet.

The Tale of the Statistics

There are people out there who complain that older drivers shouldn't be on the road, that they're too hesitant and don't react quickly enough. Other people say that young drivers are reckless and don't take the risk of a car accident seriously. So who's right?

If you judge based on numbers alone, young drivers – especially male teenage drivers – are the most dangerous drivers on the road:

  • Mile for mile, the crash rate for drivers age 16 and 17 is about 9x that for middle-aged drivers.
  • Mile for mile, the crash rate for drivers over the age of 80 is about 5.5x that of middle-aged drivers.
  • Drivers in their 60s have the same car accident rate as drivers in their 30s.
  • Teenagers ages 16 – 19 are more likely to be in a car accident than any other age group.
  • The car accident fatality rate for male drivers and passengers ages 16 – 19 is almost 2x that of females in the same age group.
  • The increased fatality rate in drivers over the age of 75 is largely due to injury and medical complications, NOT an increased tendency to get in accidents.

What Puts Teen Drivers at Risk?

Many parents say that the thought of their teenager behind the wheel puts their stomach in knots. This fear may be at least somewhat justified, as there are a number of factors that make teens more likely to be involved in car accidents. Some of these are hardwired into their young brains.

Teenage brains aren't fully matured, which can translate into impulsive decisions and poor judgment. Combined this with lack of driving experience and the freedom and responsibility of a vehicle, and you have a recipe for danger.

  • Teens are more likely to underestimate or not recognize dangerous driving situations.
  • Teenagers are more likely to speed and allow shorter stopping distances between themselves and other vehicles.
  • Compared with other age groups, teens have the lowest rate of seatbelt use.
  • At all levels of blood alcohol concentration (BAC), teenagers are more likely to be involved in car accidents than older drivers.

Car Accidents Can Happen at Any Age

There are good drivers and bad drivers in every age group. No matter how old you are, you should do everything possible to prevent car accidents. This includes following all traffic laws, always wearing a seatbelt, staying distraction-free, and never driving drunk.

If you, or someone you love, is ever injured in a car accident, we can answer your questions. Feel free to get in touch with us 24/7.


"Older Drivers: Get the Facts." Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 2013.

"Teen Drivers: Get the Facts." Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 2013.

"Teenagers and older people are the riskiest drivers." Consumer Reports. October 2012.

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