The Institute of Advanced Motorists (IAM) found that the more cautious approach taken by motorists aged over 70 corresponded with a lower rate of accidents, especially compared to drivers under 30, who are the highest risk group.
As well as dispelling a popular myth about older drivers being more dangerous, the road charity's research also sheds new light on how the causes of accidents differ significantly for those aged over 70.
The group is less likely to be involved in accidents caused by being careless, reckless or in a hurry. Travelling too fast for the conditions, sudden braking, exceeding the speed limit or being over the alcohol limit also accounted for a relatively low level of crashes, the IAM found.
By comparison, "failed to look properly" – the most common factor in crashes for all age groups – was particularly high for the 70-plus age group.
Other causes that featured more prominently were failing to judge speed, poor turn or manoeuvre, loss of control, illness or disability, dazzling sun and nervousness, uncertainty and panic.
Overall, people over 70 made up 9% of drivers in 2011 but 6% of driver casualties. The proportion of people killed or seriously injured in road accidents who were aged over 80 was high – second only to those aged between 16 and 19.
The findings are particularly important for road safety given the dramatic increase in driving licence holders aged over 70 that is expected over the next 20 years.