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Youngest and Oldest Drivers Most Likely to Be in Unsafe Vehicles

Youngest and Oldest Drivers Most Likely to Be in Unsafe Vehicles

Teen drivers and drivers 65 years and older — two age groups at high risk of being involved in an automobile accident — are more likely to be driving unsafe vehicles, which can increase their risk of injury even further, according to a new study from the Center for Injury Research and Prevention (CIRP) at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP).

Newly licensed drivers have the highest crash risk of any age group, while older drivers have the highest crash fatality rate of any age group, with many of these crashes being linked to physical changes in health.

In addition, drivers of all age groups living in lower-income neighborhoods are disproportionately represented in fatal crashes, and both younger and older residents in those neighborhoods are more likely to face financial challenges in securing a vehicle with key safety characteristics than their peers in wealthier neighborhoods.

One promising approach to reduce injuries related to crashes is to ensure drivers are behind the wheel of the safest vehicles they can afford. To better assess the risk faced by these high-risk driver groups, the study adds important empirical data describing the extent to which they are driving vehicles with fewer critical safety characteristics.

“Survey studies had previously found that younger drivers were more likely to drive vehicles that were older, smaller and lacked certain safety features, but there had yet to be a population-based study that really explored this question for different ages and income levels,” says Kristi Metzger, Ph.D., M.P.H., a statistical scientist at CIRP and first author of the study.

“To that end, we conducted the first large-scale study to estimate the prevalence of important vehicle safety criteria among a statewide driver population.”

The research team looked at data from the NJ Safety and Health Outcomes data warehouse, which includes all crash and licensing data for the state of New Jersey from 2010 to 2017. They then used National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s Product Information Catalog and Vehicle Listing platform to decode the VIN of each crash-involved vehicle to obtain model year, presence of electronic stability control (ESC), vehicle type, engine horsepower, and presence of front, side, and curtain airbags.

ESC is a key safety feature that helps a driver maintain vehicle control on curves and slippery roads and reduces crash fatality risk on a level comparable to seat belts.

The findings reveal that teens and older drivers were more likely than middle-aged adults to drive older cars that did not have ESC or side and curtain airbags. Furthermore, drivers of all ages from lower-income neighborhoods were less likely to drive newer, safer cars.

On average, young drivers from lower-income neighborhoods drove vehicles that were almost twice as old as their peers from higher-income neighborhoods, while young drivers from high-income neighborhoods were 53% more likely to drive cars with side airbags. Older drivers from high-income neighborhoods were 35% more likely to have vehicles with side airbags than older drivers from low-income neighborhoods.

“All drivers should strive to be in the safest vehicle they can afford, regardless of age or income level,” said Metzger. “There are many vehicles available with key safety features that won’t break the bank, some for less than $7,000.”

The study findings are published in the journal Traffic Injury Prevention.

Source: Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia


Youngest and Oldest Drivers Most Likely to Be in Unsafe Vehicles

Traci Pedersen

Traci Pedersen is a professional writer with over a decade of experience. Her work consists of writing for both print and online publishers in a variety of genres including science chapter books, college and career articles, and elementary school curriculum.

APA Reference
Pedersen, T. (2020). Youngest and Oldest Drivers Most Likely to Be in Unsafe Vehicles. Psych Central. Retrieved on November 30, 2020, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 29 Aug 2020 (Originally: 29 Aug 2020)
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 29 Aug 2020
Published on Psych All rights reserved.