Young vs. Old Drivers: Same Accidents
Missouri's youngest drivers, ages 15 to 25, caused one-third of all accidents on Missouri roads in 2004. The oldest group, ages 61 and up, caused 10% of all accidents.
However, if you look at the causes behind those accidents, you won't notice such a big difference. At 70 miles per hour, an accident takes less than a second. But, speed isn't the number-one reason for accidents caused by young drivers on Missouri roads.
"My own personal experience, I think, I see inattention," explained Highway Patrol officer Bryan Salmons. "That's probably one of the more probably contributing circumstances for a young driver. And typically, it's because they're talking to someone in the vehicle."
In fact, inattention is the leading cause of young driver crashes in Missouri. Failing to yield ranks second, while speeding accounts for 21.3% of car accidents. Following too closely and improper lane changes round out the top five.
If you compare these numbers to older drivers' crash figures, the lineup looks similar. Inattention is still the number-one cause, with a small margin separating young drivers from older drivers. So, more experience doesn't always mean older drivers have learned their lessons.
"Sometimes, the older drivers forget some of the safety aspects," added Mel Rupard of the state Department of Motor Vehicles, "and they seem to struggle if they have to retest."
Driver inattention can be a result of cell phone usage, talking to a passenger, eating or drinking, tuning the radio and personal grooming. Cell phones, the leading cause of driver inattention, contributed to 1,246 car accidents in 2004. Talking to someone else in the car caused 1,148 accidents.
The Missouri Highway Patrol doesn't notice much difference between accidents caused by young and older drivers, because both groups make the same mistakes.
"It's a learning process. I don't think you ever stop learning how to be a better driver."
The total number of of accidents caused by Missouri's young drivers has dropped almost 5% since 2003. The biggest decrease was the number of fatal accidents, which dropped more than 10%.
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