Older Drivers

Driving is a key concern, but older adults are also increasingly injured and killed when walking, bicycling, and riding in vehicles.

The number of motor-vehicle deaths involving drivers and other road users age 65 and older has increased 30% since 2009, from 6,241 to 8,132. At the same time, the population of older adults in America has increased 28%, resulting in a death rate per 100,000 population increase of only 1%. These fatality trends are based on mortality data collected by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

The number of deaths estimated by the CDC is higher than what is estimated by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). The difference in part is because the CDC’s estimate reflects both traffic and non-traffic crashes, while NHTSA’s estimate reflects only traffic crashes. NHTSA estimates 6,784 older adult traffic deaths in 2017 compared to CDC’s estimate of 8,132 motor-vehicle deaths. Please see the Comparison of NSC and NHTSA Estimates for a full description of differences.

Based on CDC data, in 2017 older adult motor-vehicle deaths included:

  • 465 non-traffic deaths
  • 2,040 vehicle occupant traffic deaths
  • 464 motorcyclist traffic deaths
  • 1,407 pedestrian traffic deaths
  • 130 bicyclist traffic deaths
  • 3,626 other or unspecified traffic deaths
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  • Data Table

NHTSA estimates that the majority of people killed in traffic crashes involving older drivers are 65 and older. Nearly 70% of the deaths in 2017 were either the older driver or their passenger, also 65 years of age or older:

  • Older driver deaths: 4,248 (57.7%)
  • Passengers age 65+ riding with an older driver: 882 (12.0%)
  • Passenger younger than 65 riding with an older driver: 15 (0.2%)
  • Other vehicle occupants: 1,468 (19.9%)
  • Non-occupants: 746 (10.1%)
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After middle age, the number of drivers involved in fatal crashes decreases as the age of the driver increases. Over 7,000 drivers age 55 to 64 were involved in fatal crashes in 2017. This number drops to 2,316 for 65- to 69-year-old drivers and continues to drop with each successive age group.

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In contrast, while older adult drivers are involved in fewer total fatal crashes compared to younger cohorts, the rate of driver involvement in fatal crashes per 100,000 licensed drivers starts increasing with the 70 to 74 age group. The upward trend is strongest among men but is also present among older female drivers.

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Helping Older Adult Drivers

 

Similar to new teen drivers, older adult drivers are likely to feel more independent with a driver’s license and access to a vehicle. Aging brings new challenges which may cause a change in driving habits, with older drivers often looking to family for assistance. More information on helping adult drivers can be found here.

Sources:

NSC analysis of Center for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, Web-based Injury Statistics Query and Reporting System (WISQARS)

National Center for Statistics and Analysis. (2019, March). 2017 older population fact sheet. (Traffic Safety Facts. Report No. DOT HS 812 684). Washington, DC: National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

See data details