Older Adult Drivers
In 2018, there were more than 45 million licensed drivers aged 65 and older in the United States. This is a 60% increase since 2000.1 Driving helps older adults stay mobile and independent. But the risk of being injured or killed in a traffic crash increases as people age. Thankfully, there are steps that older adults can take to stay safer on the roads.
- Older drivers, particularly those aged 75+, have higher crash death rates than middle-aged drivers (aged 35-54).3 Higher crash death rates among this age group are primarily due to increased vulnerability to injury in a crash.
- Across all age groups, males have substantially higher death rates than females.4
- Age-related declines in vision and cognitive functioning (ability to reason and remember), as well as physical changes, might affect some older adults’ driving abilities.5
In general, older adults engage in safer driving behaviors than other age groups, including more often wearing seat belts, driving when conditions are safest, and not drinking and driving.
Taking these key steps can help adults of all ages, including older adults, stay safe on the road:
Always wear a seat belt as a driver or passenger
Seat belt use is one of the most effective ways to save lives and reduce injuries in crashes.6
Drive when conditions are safest
Conditions such as poor weather7 and driving at night8 increase the likelihood of crash injuries and deaths.
Don’t drink and drive
Alcohol impairment increases the risk of being in a crash due to factors such as reduced coordination and impaired judgment.
- Download and use CDC’s MyMobility Plan to make a plan to stay mobile and independent as you age.
- Follow a regular activity program to increase strength and flexibility.
- Ask your doctor or pharmacist to review medicines–both prescription and over-the counter–to reduce side effects and interactions. Read the Are Your Medicines Increasing Your Risk of a Fall or a Car Crash fact sheet to learn more about the medicines that might have side effects associated with falls and motor vehicle crashes.
- Have your eyes checked by an eye doctor at least once a year. Wear glasses and corrective lenses as required.
- Drive during daylight and in good weather.
- Plan your route before you drive.
- Find the safest route with well-lit streets, intersections with left-turn signals, and easy parking.
- Leave a large following distance between your car and the car in front of you.
- Avoid distractions in your car, such as listening to a loud radio, talking or texting on your phone, and eating.
- Consider potential alternatives to driving, such as riding with a friend, ride share services, or using public transit.
- AAA: Senior Driving Web Siteexternal icon
- AARP: Driver Safety Programexternal icon
- American Occupational Therapy Association: Driving and Community Mobilityexternal icon
- Clearinghouse for Older Road User Safety (CHORUS)external icon
- National Highway Traffic Safety Administration: Older Driversexternal icon
- Rides In Sightexternal icon
- University of Michigan, Transportation Research Institute: Driving Decisions Workbookexternal icon
- Freund K, Bayne A, Beck, L, Siegfried A, Warren J, Nadel T, Natarajan A. Special report from the CDC: characteristics of ride share services for older adults in the United States.pdf icon Journal of Safety Research 2020;72:9-19.
- Freund K, Bayne A, Siegfried A, Warren J, Nadel T, Natarajan A, Beck, L. 2019. Environmental scan of ride share services available for older adults [White paper].external icon Chicago; NORC at the University of Chicago.
- Bergen G, West BA, Luo F, Bird DC, Freund K, Fortinsky RH, Staplin L. How do older adult drivers self-regulate? Characteristics of self-regulation classes defined by latent class analysis.external icon Journal of Safety Research 2017; 61: 205-210.
- Bird DC, Freund K, Fortinsky RH, Staplin L, West BA, Bergen G, Downs J. Driving self-regulation and ride service utilization in a multicommunity, multistate sample of U.S. older adults.external icon Traffic Injury Prevention 2017; 18: 267-272.
- Federal Highway Administration, Department of Transportation (US). Highway Statistics 2018. Washington (DC): FHWA; 2020. Available at: https://www.fhwa.dot.gov/policyinformation/statistics/2018/external icon. Accessed 10 November 2020.
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Injury Prevention and Control. Web-based Injury Statistics Query and Reporting System (WISQARS). Atlanta, GA: CDC; 2018. Available at: cdc.gov/injury/wisqars. Accessed 10 November 2020.
- Cicchino JB. Why have fatality rates among older drivers declined? The relative contributions of changes in survivability and crash involvement. Accident Analysis & Prevention 2015; 83: 67-73.
- Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS). Fatality facts 2018, Older people. Arlington (VA): IIHS; 2018. Available at: https://www.iihs.org/iihs/topics/t/older-drivers/fatalityfacts/older-people/2016external icon. Accessed 30 November 2020.
- Owsley C. Driver capabilities in transportation in an aging society: a decade of experience. Technical Papers and Reports from a Conference: Bethesda, MD; Nov. 7-9, 1999. Washington, DC, Transportation Research Board; 2004.
- National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, Department of Transportation (US). Traffic Safety Facts: 2018 Data: Occupant Protection. US Department of Transportation, Washington (DC): 2020. Available at: https://crashstats.nhtsa.dot.gov/Api/Public/ViewPublication/812967external icon. Accessed 10 November 2020.
- Malin F, Norros I, Innamma S. Accident risk of road and weather conditions on different road types. Accident Analysis and Prevention 2019; 122: 181-188.
- National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, Department of Transportation (US). Traffic Safety Facts: 2007 Data: Passenger vehicle occupant fatalities by day and night- a contrast. US Department of Transportation, Washington (DC): 2019. Available at: https://crashstats.nhtsa.dot.gov/Api/Public/ViewPublication/810637external icon. Accessed 10 November 2020.