Older Adult Drivers: Fact Sheet
In 2007, there were 31 million licensed drivers ages 65 and older in the United States. Driving helps older adults stay mobile and independent. But the risk of being injured or killed in a motor vehicle crash increases as you age. An average of 500 older adults are injured every day as occupants of motor vehicles. Thankfully, there are steps that older adults can take to stay safer on the roads.
How big is the problem?
More than 183,000 older adults were injured as occupants in motor vehicle crashes in 2008. This amounts to 500 older adults being injured in a crash every day. There were 31 million licensed older drivers in 2007, which is a 19–percent increase from 1997.
Who is most at risk?
Motor vehicle crash deaths per capita among males and females begin to increase markedly starting at ages 70-74. Per mile traveled, fatal crash rates increase starting at age 75 and increase notably after age 80. This is largely due to increased susceptibility to injury, particularly chest injuries, and medical complications among older drivers rather than an increased tendency to get into crashes. Age-related declines in vision and cognitive functioning (ability to reason and remember), as well as physical changes, may affect some older adults' driving abilities. Across all age groups, males had substantially higher death rates than females.
How can deaths and injuries be prevented?
Existing protective factors that may help improve older drivers’ safety include:
1. High incidence of seat belt use: More than three in every four (77%) older motor vehicle occupants (drivers and passengers) involved in fatal crashes were wearing seat belts at the time of the crash, compared to 63 percent for other adult occupants (18 to 64 years of age).
2. Tendency to drive when conditions are the safest: Older drivers tend to limit their driving during bad weather and at night and drive fewer miles than younger drivers.
3. Lower incidence of impaired driving: Older adult drivers are less likely to drink and drive than other adult drivers. Only 5% of older drivers involved in fatal crashes had a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.08 grams per deciliter (g/dL) or higher, compared to 25% of drivers between the ages of 21 and 64 years.
What can older adults do?
Exercise regularly 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. Have 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. Find the safest route with well-lit streets, intersections with left turn arrows, and easy parking. Plan your route before you drive.Leave a large following distance behind the car in front of you.Avoid distractions in your car, such as listening to a loud radio, talking on your cell phone, texting, and eating in the car. Think about potential alternatives to driving, such as riding with a friend or using public transit, that you can use to get around.
Mark C. Blane is a San Diego Personal Injury Attorney, and the managing lawyer of the Law Offices of Mark C. Blane, a San Diego, California Personal Injury Law Firm dedicated to representing families of people injured in personal injury accidents including car accidents, slip and falls, dog bites, product defects, and the like. If you or a loved one has been killed or injured in an accident in San Diego, or Southern California, due to the negligence of another, please order your free copy of Mr. Blane's book, The 10 Secrets You Need To Know About Your Injury Case, BEFORE You Call A Lawyer. It is full of helpful information that will help you protect your legal rights and it normally sells for $16.95. However, it is free to all California residents, or those injured in an California accident.