Parents might feel a bit nervous when putting a teenager behind the wheel, but sometimes it’s the grandparents that should be the most cause for concern.
“The question of whether older drivers are more likely to get into an accident is tricky,” said Matt Butner, communications consultant for the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles.
With more elderly drivers on the road than ever before, a 2013 study from the DMV aimed to make roadways safer by increasing driver’s license renewal standards for mature drivers.
But in Williamsburg numbers show that older drivers are still causing a large number of vehicle crashes.
There is a lower population of elderly residents in Williamsburg, those older than 65, than teenage residents between the ages of 15 and 19 years old. Yet, elderly drivers caused nearly 31 percent more vehicle crashes than teenagers in 2018, according to data from the DMV’s jurisdiction crash maps.
There are only 1,247 elderly residents in the city but in 2018 there were 35 crashes involving a mature driver, 71 percent of which resulted in injury. With 6,022 teenagers, there were only 11 crashes involving younger drivers, 63 percent resulted in injury, according to the data.
However, the number of crashes involving elderly drivers have been decreasing each year. In 2016 there were 64, and in 2017 there were 62.
Crashes involving younger drivers are also decreasing. Between 2017 and 2016, vehicle crashes involving teenage drivers only decreased by three.
What is similar between the two groups is where the wrecks are occurring. Both younger and mature drivers experienced the most wrecks between 2016 and 2018 at the intersection of Jamestown Road and Route 199.
But despite the similarities in data, it appears even with a lesser number of mature drivers on the road, they are still causing more wrecks.
A report from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, Highway Loss Data Institute indicated elderly drivers spend 45 percent less time on the road and yet in Williamsburg, numbers show that even with a smaller elderly population and less time on the road, older drivers are causing nearly twice as many vehicle crashes than younger drivers.
Those numbers reflect opposite national findings from the IIHS-HLDI which showed older drivers have lower rates of police-reported crash involvements per capita.
One of the reasons for this discrepancy could be the driving conditions in a city like Williamsburg where the blocks are shorter and there are more intersections.
According to the IIHS-HLDI website, often the rate of crashes involving elderly drivers increase in more urban environments. This can inflate numbers in those environments where younger drivers might be taking interstates which experience less crashes.
In the more rural area of James City County, crash data reflects this notion. From 2016 to 2018 teen drivers had 43 more vehicle crashes than mature drivers. There is also a slightly larger number of mature drivers than teen drivers in James City County.
But most of those wrecks for both age groups occurred closer to the city.
Even with the comparison between the two localities, data shows a different story than the rest of the nation where IIHS-HLDI said the number of mature driver-related crashes are lower than younger age groups.
There are similarities and differences between the crash statistics for both age sets and as drivers young and old hit the road in 2019, only time will tell how the paths will diverge.