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Factors That Affect Auto Insurance: Age And Its Impact

Age is a key variable in determining auto insurance premiums because it likely implies your level of driving experience and ability to react or respond in potential crash situations.

Elderly drivers

With the aging of the US population, there’s increasing attention to the risk of crashes among the elderly. In fact, drivers 75 years or older have a higher crash death rate per miles driven than any other group except teens.

Drivers over the age of 65 are almost twice (1.78 times) as likely to die in car crashes as drivers age 55–64, according to a February 2004 study by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety. The study found that the probability of death or injury in car crashes increase with age, as does the likelihood that an older driver will be involved in a left-turn crash, be affected by illness, or suffer from lapses in perception that could contribute to a crash.

Researchers at the University of Baltimore and John Hopkins University recommend state-mandated vision tests for older drivers as an effective tool in reducing crash risk. The researchers analyzed fatal crashes from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) that involved at least one driver age 70 or older. As of February 2004, at least 15 states require more frequent testing for older drivers at license renewal. Drivers over the age 75 in Illinois and New Hampshire must take road tests upon license renewal; Indiana requires both written and road testing in addition to vision testing. Ohio does not currently require special testing for senior drivers upon renewal, but requires vision testing for all drivers upon license renewal.

Source: Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, Fatality Facts 2001 and 2002

Source: Ohio Department of Public Safety, 7/03

2001–02 US senior driver statistics

  • 6,622 people (65 years and older) died in motor vehicle crashes in 2002 (6,719 in 2001), 10% less than in 1997 but 24% more than in 1975. 79% of elderly fatalities were passenger vehicle occupants; 16% were pedestrians.

  • In 2002, about half of the fatal crashes involving drivers 80 years or older occur at intersections and involve multiple vehicles, compared with 24% among drivers up to age 65.

  • Per licensed driver, fatal crash rates begin to rise at age 75.

  • At age 80 years and older, the pedestrian death rate per 100,000 among men is nearly three times as high as younger pedestrians.

  • People 65 years and older represented about 16% of the driving age population in 2002 and involved in 15% of fatal crashes. By 2030, seniors are expected to represent 25% of both the driving population and fatal crash involvement.

2001–02 Ohio senior driver statistics

  • In 2002, 9.9% of Ohio’s licensed drivers were age 71 or older, for a total of 775,312 older drivers.

  • In 2002, 270 of those who died in crashes were over the age of 60 (246 in 2001). 183 were drivers, 65 were passengers and 22 were pedestrians. 13,782 injuries for this age group were reported in 2002 (13,456 in 2001).

  • Those 76 and over represented 8.3% of all crash fatalities (117 of 1,417).

  • In 2002, those 76 and over accounted for 4,145 of the 143,258 crash injuries.

  • 142 men over age 60 died in crashes in 2002, comprising 14.7% of Ohio’s male crash fatalities. 128 females in that age group died in crashes, which is 28.3% of all female crash fatalities.

Source: Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, Fatality Facts 2002

Teenage and youthful drivers

Even before reaching driving age, most teens catch car fever. But when it comes to purchasing auto insurance, a sudden case of premium sticker shock is likely to set in.

The reason is based on the likelihood of teen involvement in crashes. In 2002, teenagers accounted for 10% of the US driving population, but were involved in 14% of all motor vehicle deaths. Crashes are the leading cause of teen deaths.

Teens drive less than all age groups but the oldest drivers, but their numbers of crashes and crash deaths are disproportionately high. The risk of crash involvement per mile driven among drivers 16–19 years old is four times greater than older drivers.

An IIHS study released in early 2002 finds that although 16 year-old boys are still the road’s riskiest drivers, girls are catching up. For every 1,000 licensed 16 year-old girls, 175 were involved in crashes in 2000, up 9% from 1990 when the ratio was 160 crashes per 1,000 young female drivers.

Girls ages 16–19 are driving 70% more than in 1975, averaging 6,870 miles annually. Teenage boys are driving 16% more, averaging 8,200 miles a year.

2001–02 US young driver statistics

  • 5,933 teens died in motor vehicle crashes in 2002, compared to 5,594 in 2001, and 32% fewer than in 1975. However, teen crash deaths were 6% higher in 2002 compared to 2001.

  • Motor vehicle death rates per 100,000 peaked at age 19 for drivers and at age 18 for passengers in 2002.

  • In 2000, 40% of the deaths of 16–19 year-olds from all causes were from crashes (latest figures available).

  • About two out of every three teenagers killed in crashes in 2002 were males.

  • Since 1975, teen motor vehicle deaths have decreased 40% among males, compared to only 9% among females.

  • 52% of all teen motor vehicle deaths in 2002 occurred on weekends (Fri.–Sun.). 41% of all teenage motor vehicle deaths occurred between 9 pm–6 am.

  • 55% of teenage passenger vehicle occupant deaths in 2002 were drivers and 45% were passengers.

  • 61% of teenage passenger deaths in 2002 occurred in crashes in which another teen was driving. Among people of all ages, 20% of passenger deaths occurred when a teenager was driving.

2001–02 Ohio young driver statistics

  • In 2002, there were 552,912 licensed drivers ages 16–20, representing 7% of all Ohio drivers. Their high crash rate of 1 for every 5.2 drivers is surpassed only by Ohio’s group of drivers under age 16. Of the 6,864 Ohio drivers under 16, there was a crash for every 2.4 drivers.

  • In 2002, drivers ages 16–20 represented 16.4% of all drivers in crashes. This age group was involved in more fatal and injury-causing crashes than any other age group. They also had the most drivers found in error in crashes at 20.6%. They were involved in 13.9% of all fatal crashes. 16–19 year old drivers were involved in 17.2% of Ohio crashes causing injuries.

  • 214 young drivers and passengers ages 16–20 died in traffic crashes in 2002. 139 were drivers, 69 were passengers and 6 were pedestrians. This compares to 202 fatalities in 2001.

  • Of the 214 teens ages 16–20 who died in crashes, 55 were involved in alcohol related crashes. In 2001 there were 44 alcohol-related fatalities.

  • In 2002, 146 males ages 16–20 died in crashes, which is 15.1% of all male crash fatalities. 68 females in this age group died, which is 15% of all females who died in crashes. There were more fatalities among males and females ages 16–20 than any other age group.

Sources: US information—Insurance Institute for Highway Safety; Ohio information—Ohio Department of Public Safety

Source: Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, Fatality Facts 2002

Safety measures for youth

Young drivers should be the best drivers on the road. With superior reflexes, they have the ability to react to driving emergencies more quickly than their elderly counterparts. But, immaturity and lack of judgment and driving experience may override such pluses.

A study released in 2000 supports the risky behavior aspects of younger drivers. Upon analyzing data on fatal crashes, researchers at John Hopkins University found that 16-year-old drivers face a 39% higher risk of dying behind the wheel with the addition of one young passenger. That increases to 86% with two passengers and 182% with three or more. 17-year-old drivers face even higher risk rates. Three or more passengers triple their risk of becoming a crash fatality.

According to NHTSA, among the 8,572 teen drivers involved in fatal crashes in 2002, 38% had at least one speeding conviction or other moving violation.

Adding a teenage driver to a policy can at least double a family’s auto insurance premium. To help with insurance premiums, consider these measures:

  • Add young drivers and/or their cars to the family’s auto insurance policy rather than purchasing a separate one. But, family assets may be open to lawsuits if your young driver is causes a crash with losses higher than your policy limits.

  • Parents should restrict young driver’s use of cars, closely supervising all aspects of its operation. Night driving restrictions are strongly recommended.

  • Work out expense sharing so that teen drivers understand and respect the costs of owning and/or operating a vehicle.

  • Ohio’s graduated licensing law requires new drivers under age 18 to take an approved driver training course. (Click here for more information.) Some insurers recognize that driver training creates safer drivers, so ask if driving training program discounts apply.

  • Consider higher auto liability insurance limits, especially beyond Ohio’s minimum limits. To help defray the additional premium, consider higher deductibles or paying for minor fender benders out of pocket.

  • Ask about young driver discounts, such as maintaining a B average or higher. Also, if your student keeps the vehicle away at school, it may be in a lower risk location, meaning a slight reduction in premiums.

  • Parents should set a good example by always buckling up, not speeding, not using cell phones while driving and avoiding other risks behind the wheel.

  • Limit the number of passengers that are permitted to ride with your teen.

  • If purchasing a vehicle for a teen, choose an intermediate size car or sedan. Avoid high performance vehicles such as sports cars, SUVs or pickup trucks. Small, sporty vehicles usually carry higher insurance premiums and have higher death and theft rates.

  • Emphasize to teen drivers that traffic tickets and at-fault accidents will cause premiums to rise.