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Gas pedal crashes: common for drivers over age 76 and under 20

Did you know that crashes in which drivers mistakenly hit the gas instead of the brake tend to involve older female drivers in parking lots? A recent study from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration found that nearly two-thirds of drivers that have been in these types of accidents are female. Even so, when looking at all motor vehicle wrecks, the study found that 60 percent of drivers involved in car accidents are male.

Gas pedal accidents started to gain a bad reputation approximately 10 years ago. West Virginia residents probably remember hearing about that case where an 86-year-old male driver stepped on the gas pedal instead of the brake and plowed into a market. Ten people were killed and 63 injured in this incident. Since then, crash researchers have focused on this problem.

A recent government study has found that gas pedal crashes tend to occur more often among drivers over age 76 and under age 20. Researchers suspect that the areas of the brain that deal with driving are not fully developed in teenage and elderly drivers. Specifically, the parts that support executive functioning--planning, attention and organization--take time to grow and are not fully developed until early adulthood. Nevertheless, older drivers are more likely to perform poorly on tests of executive functioning.

In addition, most of these accidents occur in parking lots, parking garages and driveways. A group of specialists believe that there may be the same amount of instances of mistakenly using the gas pedal on roadways; however, motorists have more room and time to recover on the road than in a parking lot.

This new research sheds new light on misapplied accelerator crashes. The statistics help aid researchers and various transportation agencies in their efforts toward collision prevention.

Source: Associated Press, "Most gas pedal accidents involve women," Joan Lowy, April 13, 2012.

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