When people think of drivers over 55, they may think of that old cartoon character Mr. Magoo, the wealthy retiree who refuses to wear glasses but continues to drive. This stereotype of older Americans feeds the myth that older drivers are bad drivers, and as a result their insurance should go up. But this is not typically the case. In fact, drivers, like wine, often get better with age.
Licensed drivers over 65 make up 1 in 6 of all drivers and as drivers age, they tend to take fewer risks. Drivers over 55 are less likely to be in a hurry, and are more likely to obey speed limits, which improves safety. Senior drivers also benefit from years of experience, helping them to predict and react more efficiently than youthful operators. Bodily changes that come with age, like changes in hearing, sight, and reflexes are often compensated for by drivers becoming more cautious. Senior drivers often consciously choose to avoid driving at night or in bad weather, reducing the risk of an accident. Drivers who are retired also drive fewer miles than commuters, reducing the chances of an accident, and translating into lower insurance rates.
Drivers over 55 are also eligible for a range of discounts. Discounts may be available to senior drivers who complete a senior driver’s safety class, just like teen drivers who take an insurance-certified safety class. There are senior discounts with insurance companies and discount offers through AARP. Older Americans are also more likely to own their homes than younger people, and can bundle home and auto services, giving them a lower rate than stand-alone car insurance.
For senior drivers, adequate coverage is essential. As drivers mature, they often start accumulating assets, like homes and retirement investments, that can potentially become exposed in a lawsuit if the driver is without adequate auto insurance. For more advice on insurance, check out Peter Burnett’s blog to make sure drivers are appropriately covered.
For those seniors who continue to drive as they age, the Commonwealth of Virginia has created several resources to help monitor aging individuals’ ability to drive safely. The state has its own mature drivers’ class, cleverly called the “GrandDriver Program,” which also offers thoughtful and useful tools for those caring for a senior driver. Because a driver’s health inevitably changes with age, the state has created guides with medical information for drivers, and resources to help define the medical fitness required of people operating a motor vehicle. And the AARP, AAA, and the American Occupational Therapy Association teamed up to create a resource to make sure that cars “fit” drivers, with appropriate safety features and settings.
If seniors have multiple accidents, their insurance rates may change, but this is a result of the accidents, not age. As a last step in keeping both seniors and the population safe, Virginia has created an anonymous form for reporting impaired drivers who may not want to give up their license, and whose insurance may be unaware of the risk. Some insurance companies are creating resources for this end-of-driving life. For example, the Hartford Insurance Company has created a resource called “We Need To Talk” to help guide senior caregivers who have to have the tough conversation with seniors about stopping driving.
While the mortality rate per miles driven is higher, fatalities are due to a more vulnerable aging body, not the risk of being in a serious auto accident. Any driver could be equally safe or unsafe behind the wheel, regardless of age. With today’s senior driver looking less like Mr. Magoo, and more like Jane Fonda, we can put the myth of insurance costing more for seniors to bed, early, before it gets dark.
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