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 be injured or killed in motor vehicle, pedestrian, and bicycle crashes.[1] Older adults 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 that 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 people 65 and older killed in 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.