How does safe driving contribute to health and well-being?

While older drivers are less likely to drive aggressively or speed, they are considered vulnerable road users. Due to age-related vulnerabilities, older road users are more likely to experience injuries or fatalities in motor vehicle, pedestrian, and bicycle crashes.[1] Older adults who are at a greater risk of injury when in a crash may have a long recovery period from the injuries and are likely to experience lasting impacts on their daily activities as a result of those injuries. This is because of two related issues—fragility and frailty.

Fragility (breakability) relates to how likely it is that a person will be injured if they are in a crash. Frailty (repairability) relates to how well a person can recover once injured. Together, frailty and fragility can translate to longer periods of recovery or lasting effects after involvement in a crash. In general, older adults are more fragile than other drivers, leading to a higher risk of serious injuries or fatalities in a crash. Due to the frailty and fragility of older drivers, they are over-represented in crash data as evidenced by the following data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) statistics[2].

  • In 2020, there were 6,549 fatalities for people 65 and older from traffic crashes in the United States, accounting for 17 percent of all traffic fatalities.
  • Among the older population, the traffic fatality rate per 100,000 population in 2020 was highest for the 80-to-84 and 85-and-older age groups.

Planning ahead makes it easier for loved ones to help support an older driver with continuing to stay safe behind the wheel and to develop a plan of action beyond the driver’s seat.

Additional Resources:

[1] Pomidor A, ed. Clinician’s Guide to Assessing and Counseling Older Drivers, 4th Edition. New York: The American Geriatrics Society; 2019.

[2] National Center for Statistics and Analysis (2022, July) Older population: 2020 data (Traffic Safety Facts, Report No. DOT HS 813 341). National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.​