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 increased 15%, from 7,902 in 2020 to 9,102 in 2021. Over the last decade, the number of deaths increased 34%. At the same time, the population of older adults in the United States has increased 29%, resulting in a death rate per 100,000 population increase of 2.5%. 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 7,489 older adult traffic deaths in 2021 compared to CDC’s estimate of 9,102 motor-vehicle deaths. Please see the Comparison of CDC/NSC and NHTSA Estimates for a full description of differences.

Based on CDC data, in 2021 older adult motor-vehicle deaths included:

  • 486 non-traffic deaths
  • 1,952 vehicle occupant traffic deaths
  • 609 motorcyclist traffic deaths
  • 1,645 pedestrian traffic deaths
  • 180 bicyclist traffic deaths
  • 4,230 other or unspecified traffic deaths
  • Chart
  • Data Table

NHTSA estimates that the majority of people killed in traffic crashes involving older drivers are 65 and older. About 66% of the deaths in 2021 were either the older driver or their passenger, also 65 years of age or older:

  • Older driver deaths: 4,691 (57.1%)
  • Passengers age 65+ riding with an older driver: 732 (8.9%)
  • Passenger younger than 65 riding with an older driver: 203 (2.5%)
  • Other vehicle occupants: 1,763 (21.5%)
  • Non-occupants: 820 (10.0%)
  • Chart
  • Data Table

After age 34, the number of drivers involved in fatal crashes decreases as the age of the driver increases. 13,200 drivers age 25 to 34 were involved in fatal crashes in 2021. This number drops to 4,768 for 65- to 74-year-old drivers and continues to drop to 3,263 among 75 and older drivers.

  • Chart
  • Data Table

In contrast, while older adult drivers are involved in fewer total fatal crashes compared to younger drivers, the rate of driver involvement in fatal crashes per 100,000 licensed drivers increases with the 75 and older age group. This increase is strongest among males, but is also present among older female drivers.

  • Chart
  • Data Table

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. As we age, however, it is important to realize that mental reaction, situational awareness, vision, and motor controls may not be as sharp as they once were. Driving in heavy traffic or work zones, and during inclement weather or at night may become more challenging for the older driver. This perceived loss of independence may be difficult for older drivers to accept, and they often look to family for assistance. More information on helping adult drivers can be found here.


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

NSC analysis of NHTSA Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS) data and National Center for Statistics and Analysis. (2021, May). 2019 older population fact sheet. (Traffic Safety Facts. Report No. DOT HS 813 121). Washington, DC: National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

See data details