Infographic of the Day: Who Drives Worse, Teens, or Seniors?

Teens—but not by much.

 Everyone grouses that seniors are a bit shaky at the wheel, but the data are surprising. When you compare those 65+ to those 15-20, the two groups are both nearly as accident prone, as this infographic by frequent Fast Company contributor Gavin Potenza shows:

What's particularly surprising is that even in old age, males tend to get into far more car crashes than females. Morever, I bet that if you tweaked the data range on the senior set just slightly—examining, for example, those over 68—you'd find that they'd be at least, if not more dangerous on the road than teens.

Funny that there seems to be far more attention given to how dangerous teens are on the road. Then again, teens don't vote. And old people definitely do. Only a very dumb politician would make getting them off the road into a crusade.

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  • Gaetano Squicciarini

    Just came across this article doing research for my aging parents. I’d have to agree about the intelligence of politicians comment, but, honestly, no one wants to give up driving, particularly, in a culture that prides itself on being independent. But, the reality is we will all face this reality one day.

    One thing that makes it hard to accept is the lack of suitable alternatives. Who wants to be dependent on family members' availability, the fixed schedules and routes of public transport or community provided senior transport, or the senior unfriendly vehicles used by generic taxi services? Just because you're no longer capable of driving safely doesn't mean you're ready to lose control of your life.

    Here in the San Francisco Bay Area I've stumbled upon a company, SilverRide, that combines tailored senior transportation with personalized lifestyle concierge services to help seniors stay engaged in their community. This combo seems to make it easier for some seniors to accept driving retirement and in some cases enjoy greater freedom. Maybe a "carrot' can make the "stick" a bit less painful.

  • Fred Obermann

    This is a terrible article. The summary statistics are meaningless. How many drivers are there in each of the two groups? What is the average yearly miles driven by each of the two groups? Do older drivers drive larger, heavier vehicles, or not? What about non-fatal accidents? What about splitting the demographics into age brackets separated by 10 years? What about splitting up the groups by income, or vehicle weight? To what degree do intoxicants play a role in the statistics of each group? None of these issues are event mentioned.

    There is an interesting question worthy of investigation, "How do our driving skills evolve as we become older?". But the author doesn't even begin to address this question. Shame on FastCompany for publishing this content-free bit of fluff.

  • Larry Swain

    This data should be based PER MILE driven (not even per capita is correct). Otherwise it is meaningless. And Adam Thompson, your comment about border states is jumping to a conclusion based on prejudice or misunderstanding, since Florida, Texas, and California are the most populous states, and therefore have the most fatalities. The only anomaly is NY, which has a bit more population than Florida. NY's population, however, is concentrated in NYC, where people don't drive that much. Please exercise a little critical thinking instead of emotion.

  • david wayne osedach

    Needless to say insurance companies are well aware of these statistics. They base their rates on them.

  • Nancy

    Where does the data that men drive more miles than women come from? And women tend to outlive men, so in the older group there should be more women on the road than men, which means that men have a higher rate of fatal accidents in the older group, than do women. That's not even counting all the elderly women who are doing all the driving because the husband has had a "medical event" that prevents driving.

    I know that I drive more miles than my husband. Most of my friends do as well. For stay at home moms, we drive here and there all day, not just "to work and back". Add in public transport for commuters...well, I just don't believe that men drive more miles than women, as a group.

    I think older men have more fatal accidents as a group because they still think they have the reflexes of a 20 year old (which according to this, aren't as great as they think they are to begin with). I know my dad is much more 'impaired' than my mom and is much less aware of it.

    I work with the elderly. The men die first, as a rule and the men are less likely to admit that they aren't able to carry on as usual. That graphic for the over 65 group is disturbing.

    One of the things the graphic doesn't distill is how many of those fatal teen accidents are their fault? I know that my driving experience has allowed me to AVOID very serious accidents, and thus save my life, because I didn't enter an intersection immediately and the red light runner went speeding through. A teen might not 'get that' yet and thus put herself right in the path. My 72 year old mom was hit broadside in an intersection by an 85 year old red light runner. Mom was involved, but not at fault. 85 year old still insists her light was green (and apparently the three people she hit were all running the light... one of whom was a police officer).

    I want to see a graphic that breaks down the at fault driver's age. I suspect teens are more likely to be involved in accidents where they are not at fault because they lack the experience to avoid. Which makes the argument for drivers ed being mandatory in high schools AND a lower driving age with a longer permit driving time. Simply to gain the experience to be a better defensive driver.

  • arizonahoss

    Anyone notice where most of the fatalities are happening? Border states. Hrm, I wonder why?

  • Andrew Maul

    Dude, its not because they are border states. California and Texas also happen to be the number one and two states for population. You'll also notice that the third and fourth states by population, New York and Florida, also have the highest rates on the map. Virgina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Illinois... all states with large populations. Rates have nothing to do with borders. Oh, and Florida doesn't have a border, except with Alabama, Georgia, the Gulf of Mexico and the Atlantic Ocean. Although I sure am concerned about all the Canadians in New York.

  • bradwurst

    Where did you learn your geograpy? Most of California's border is with the Pacific Ocean. Florida's is also a peninsula.

  • Adam

    Border states? Um, I would like to think you're being sarcastic, but your comment isn't particularly funny or otherwise to suggest that you are. TX, CA, and FL are three of the most populated states, and I imagine the only reason NY isn't up there too is because of the higher higher use of public transportation like subways. Are you somehow blaming illegal immigration for car crashes? And explain how two of the four states on the Mexican border have high, one has low, and the other has medium fits into your theory?

  • Byron Jones

    Because they are the most populous states in the country. But by all means, keep telling yourself its all about the illegal immigrants.

    As someone who lives in an area with many immigrants of questionable legality, my experience is that you can spot them on the road as the people who always drive under the speed limit, always obey traffic laws, etc. because they don't want to give the police reason to pull them over.

  • Nancy Stanforth

    The information here has many issues.

    Teens do get to be better drivers, so if you looked at the 16-17 year old group, I would guess that their rates are higher than for older teens. But when I look at who I think are losing their drivng skills, I think it is probably the over 75 group that is the issue, just as the under 18 group is the issue.

    Looking strictly at fatal accidents also skews the data. Teens are far more likely to recover from an accident than are older drivers.

    I always thought that the reson for focusing on teens and trying to get them to be more cautious had to do with letting them get to be +65 drivers anyway.

  • Adam

    It says "involvement" in fatal accidents, which doesn't necessarily mean the teen dies, just that someone dies. And you could in fact throw the reverse argument, that older people who are bad drivers tend to drive slower, so while they may do dangerous things driving they are less likely to get into a fatal accident because they're going slower.

    I think the reason for focusing on teens is that they are a historically risky demographic. I don't see how "letting them get to be +65 drivers" factors in. The purpose of anything designed to encourage safe driving is to prevent deaths, you could just as well say "we need to focus on 65 year old drivers so they can get to be 75." The reason no one focuses on older people is because it is much more difficult to take something away from someone then to delay giving it to them, and getting old is a more sensitive subject then being young.

    The data is what it is. As long as their source is accurate, the data is correct, it is the argument which is based on the data that is flawed. It's the "Who are the safer drivers?" that is misleading, the data presented doesn't show number of unsafe drivers but the title leads you to believe that that is what it means.

  • Paulo Guedes

    I think this data is lacking some vital information. For instance how much does this numbers mean in % for the total drivers in those groups! and also in terms of gender!

    I would bet that there are much more men driving, and also driving much more miles, in the group of 65+ so it means that they have much higher probabilities then women of being involved in an accident!

  • Jeff

    Whomever made this INFOGRAPHIC knows nothing about SAMPLE SIZE.

    In 2007 the poulation of Teenagers driving (16-19) was about 6% of the country

    in 2007 the 65+ population was about 12% of the country.

    So per capita, Teenagers were more than twice more likely to be involved in a fatal accident per capita.

    Plus, Automobile crashes are the LEADING cause of death for humans under 21... not true for 65+

    But still, get those old people off the road, they are slowing me down!

  • athensguy

    Even that wouldn't be the right correction. The only real number that should matter is fatalities per mile.

  • Cliff Kuang

    Hey Jeff---Those are good points. Can you point me to the data you're looking at?

  • bradwurst

    Jeff made a very valid point. If you didn't normalize the data as he suggested, then your article is downright misleading. And all you could reply was where's the data? A high school student can get this data. What kind of journalism departments are you guys running?

  • Tyler Gray

    We were crediting the wrong source for this infographic. Our apologies to Gavin Potenza, who is the artists behind this and several other stunning infographics. Check 'em out here: