Josh Reynolds for The Boston Globe
The driver who plowed a Jeep into a crowded auto auction Wednesday in Billerica was reported to be his 70s. But it’s unclear whether age was a factor in what appeared to be an accident — and specialists say that, in general, older drivers tend to be safer than younger ones.
“There’s not a great correlation between age and how well you drive,” said Elizabeth Dugan, a gerontology professor at the University of Massachusetts Boston whose research focuses on older driver safety.
People can be impaired by chronic illness, but chronological age is no predictor of when those illnesses occur, Dugan said. Some 50-year-olds are in worse health than some 80-year-olds. The driver in Wednesday’s accident, which claimed three lives, was an employee of the Lynnway Auto Auction, authorities said.
“In many ways, older drivers are among the safest,” Dugan said. “Younger operators don’t have the experience and make impulsive or poor decisions.”
Mary Maguire, director of public and legislative affairs for AAA Northeast, said older drivers are “generally very safe drivers” — up to age 85. After that age, drivers are more frail, more likely to be involved in accidents than people in their 60s and 70s, and more likely to die if they are in a crash.
Although older drivers might have worsening vision and slowed reaction times, Maguire said, they typically compensate for that by driving more slowly, avoiding nighttime and rush-hour driving, and mapping routes to limit left turns.
“They’re conscious of their limitations, and they take steps to ensure their safety,” Maguire said.
For example, in 2012, just over 2 percent of all crashes in Massachusetts involved 20-year-old drivers, but 75-year-olds were responsible for only one-third of 1 percent of crashes that year. The lower rate among older drivers partially reflects that they tend to drive fewer miles.
In 2010, after a series of highly publicized accidents by elderly drivers, Massachusetts passed the Safe Driving Law. The law stopped short of mandating driving tests at a certain age, but it did require people older than 75 to come to the state Registry of Motor Vehicles in person to renew a license and take a vision test.
The law also protects police officers and physicians from lawsuits if they report a suspected impaired driver to the registry. The regulations defining the type of physical or mental impairments that prevent people from driving safely are not based on age but on the nature of the impairment.
If the public decides you should not be held accountable for what you did as a drunken 17-year-old, some wondered, what message does that send today’s 17-year-olds?Continue reading »
Lost and alone, Deb made a decision to reclaim the only home she’d ever had, whatever the risk.Continue reading »
The gas lines that wend through the state, beneath city streets, and into people’s homes are overseen by a patchwork of bureaucracies and a regulatory system that largely trusts utility companies to police themselves.Continue reading »
A man later called police and said he had “accidently left the child” in a shopping cart after a trip to the store.Continue reading »
The bizarre case of a Red Sox division title banner that went missing came to an end Wednesday when a Malden man who says he found it in Somerville brought it to Fenway Park.Continue reading »
Charlotte’s Legendary Lobster Pound in Southwest Harbor can no longer let customers request meat from lobsters sedated with marijuana.Continue reading »
Monday will see the launch of a massive gas pipeline replacement project and the distribution of thousands of space heaters.Continue reading »
The civil commitment release procedure for sex offenders has been under scrutiny since two psychologists concluded that convicted child rapist Wayne Chapman, 70, was no longer sexually dangerous and could be set free.Continue reading »
In Boston, a high temperature Saturday was 73 degrees at 2 a.m., and gradually dropped to a 68 degrees by 3:59 p.m., the National Weather Service said.Continue reading »