Move Over Cottonheads!

I remember a family relative boasting that he drove from Pennsylvania to Florida in the left lane of Interstate 95 all the way ---- driving 60 miles per hour.

older driverAnd without missing a beat, I exclaimed, “I think I was behind you!”

As I have grown older, I know that I am driving more conservatively, and that means I have probably lowered my speed as well. I no longer take the risks that I would have 20 years ago. Weaving through traffic at high speed to get somewhere ten minutes sooner is no longer a priority. The old joke really holds true: Anyone driving slower than you is an idiot, anyone driving faster than you is a maniac. Am I driving as slow as the cottonheads that I always disparaged? I don’t think so. But it turns out that older drivers may be safer than everyone else.

According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, older people are driving more and crashing less, and their fatal accident rate has dropped by 37 percent. Drivers over 80 had a 47 percent drop in their fatal accident rate.

Does this mean they have stopped annoying me by commandeering the left lane and driving slower than all the other traffic? I don’t think so, but maybe just as I have grown more cautious in my driving, so have they, and this accounts for their lower accident rate.

Researchers at the Insurance Institute compared the numbers for older drivers with a control group whose older drivermembers were between 35 and 54, an age group that is presumed to have less risky driving habits and is certainly less prone to age-related impairment.

The older drivers did far better than the control group.

So the data would indicate that as more of us baby boomers reach the age of 70 (that would be about 30 to 67 million of us over the next 40 years), we will be relatively safe drivers with a fatal accident rate than the general population.

Put another way, if we die on the highway, it will most likely be the result of some “whippersnapper” running a “cottonhead” off the road because he/she is in a hurry to get somewhere.

Doesn’t that make you feel better?

Jay Harrison is a graphic designer and writer whose work can be seen at DesignConcept. He's written a mystery novel, which therefore makes him a pre-published author.

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