Older Drivers


  • In 2011, there were 35 million licensed drivers age 65 and over according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
  • 5,401 people age 65 and older were killed and 185,000 were injured in traffic crashes in 2011.
  • In 2011 drivers age 65 and older accounted for 17 percent of all traffic fatalities.


Older drivers have higher rates of fatal crashes, based on miles driven, than any other group except young drivers, according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. The high death rate is due in large part to their frailty. Older people are less likely to survive an injury than younger people. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration,http://www.nhtsa.dot.gov), 35 million licensed drivers were age 65 and older in the United States in 2011. By 2020 there will be more than 40 million drivers on the road in this age group. NHTSA says 5,401 people age 65 and older were killed in traffic crashes in 2011. This represents 17 percent of all Americans killed on the road. In addition, 185,000 older individuals were injured in traffic crashes in 2011.

There is a growing need to help older drivers sharpen their skills as well as recognize their changing abilities and adapt their driving practices appropriately. Insurers have partnered with state and local governments, and groups such as AARP, to create programs designed to address these needs. In addition, an increasing number of states routinely attempt to identify, assess and regulate older drivers with diminishing abilities who cannot or will not voluntarily modify their driving habits.


  • Older drivers involved in fatal crashes had the lowest proportion of blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.08 percent or higher of any group of adult drivers, 6 percent in 2011. Twenty-one percent of all drivers involved in fatal crashes had a BAC of 0.08 percent or above, according to NHTSA.
  • In 2011, 77 percent of traffic fatalities involving older drivers happened during the day. Sixty-seven percent involved another vehicle.


  • The Highway Loss Data Institute released a report in November 2012 on older drivers that concluded that this group is getting larger but that this development will not result in an increase in overall collision claims rates. This is due in part to the fact that the number of older drivers will still remain small and any growth will be offset by a decline in the number of drivers under the age of 30, who have the highest claim rates of any group.
  • At least two insurers have adopted computer-based training programs for older drivers, which are designed to improve drivers’ useful field of vision—the visual area over which information can be extracted at a single glance. Studies have shown that drivers who have a limited useful field of vision are twice as likely to experience a crash. Although the range of the useful field of vision declines with age, research shows that it can be improved with brain training. In fact, specific training lasting only 10 hours has been shown to produce impressive reductions in driving risk and crashes.
  • The following chart shows how often states require older motorists to renew their drivers licenses. Accelerated or shortened renewal frequencies are listed along with the age that motorists must comply with them. According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (http://www.iihs.org/), 28 states and the District of Columbia require older drivers to renew their drivers licenses more often than the rest of the state’s residents. The chart also lists the states that require older motorists to pass particular tests and the age at which they must comply, states that require doctors to report serious medical problems and states that prohibit older drivers from renewing licenses by mail. In addition, many states encourage doctors to report people whom they consider unsafe drivers due to medical problems to the department of motor vehicles, and provide immunity from civil action if the report is made in good faith (See “Physician’s Guide to Assessing and Counseling Older Drivers”, American Medical Association, http://www.ama-assn.org/.)


(As of August 2013)

Renewal for older drivers Require older drivers to pass tests
State Length of regular renewal cycle (years) Length (years) Age Age Type of test Require doctors to report medical conditions (1) Age limits on mail or electronic renewal
Alabama 4
Alaska 5 69
Arizona none before age 65 5 65 65 vision (2) 70
Arkansas 4
California 5 X (3) 70
Colorado 10 5 61 66
Connecticut 4 or 6 65
Delaware 8 X
D.C. 8 70 vision, medical
Florida 8 6 80 80 vision
Georgia 5 or 8 5 60 64 vision X
Hawaii 8 2 72
Idaho 4 4 63
Illinois 4 2 81 (4) 75 road
Indiana 6 3 75 (4) 75
Iowa 5 2 70
Kansas 6 4 65
Kentucky 4
Louisiana 4 70
Maine 6 4 65 40 and 62 vision
Maryland 8 40 vision
Massachusetts 5 75
Michigan 4
Minnesota 4
Mississippi 4 or 8
Missouri 6 3 70 (4)
Montana 8 4 75
Nebraska 5 72
Nevada 4 70 medical (2) X
New Hampshire 5
New Jersey 4 X
New Mexico 4 or 8 4 67 (4)
New York 8
North Carolina 8 5 66
North Dakota 6 4 78
Ohio 4
Oklahoma 4
Oregon 8 50 vision X
Pennsylvania 4 X
Rhode Island 5 2 75
South Carolina 10 5 65 65 vision
South Dakota 5
Tennessee 5
Texas 6 2 85 79
Utah 5 65 vision X
Vermont 4
Virginia 8 80 vision
Washington 5
West Virginia 5 X
Wisconsin 8
Wyoming 4
  1. Physicians must report physical conditions that might impair driving skills.
  2. If renewing by mail.
  3. Specifically requires doctors to report a diagnosis of dementia.
  4. These states have special renewal requirements for other age groups. Illinois (1 year for drivers 87 and older); Indiana (2 years for drivers 85 and older); Missouri (3 years for drivers age 21 and younger); and New Mexico (1 year for drivers 75 and older).

Note: Specific requirements vary by state; contact state department of motor vehicles for more information.

Source: Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.


2002 2011 Percent change, 2002-2011
Total Age 65+ Age 65+
of total
Total Age 65 + Age 65+
of total
Total Age 65+
Population (000) 287,625 35,522 12.4% 311,592 41,394 13.3% 8% 17%
Drivers involved in fatal crashes 58,113 6,323 10.9 43,668 5,469 12.5 -25 -14
Driver fatalities 26,659 3,984 14.9 20,753 3,402 16.4 -22 -15
Total traffic fatalities 43,005 6,680 15.5 32,367 5,401 16.7 -25 -19
Occupant fatalities 37,375 5,541 14.8 27,060 4,417 16.3 -28 -20
Pedestrian fatalities 4,851 1,064 21.9 4,432 845 19.1 -9 -21

Source: U.S. Department of Transportation, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.


Age group Number of licensed drivers Percent of total Drivers in fatal crashes Involvement rate (1) Drivers in all crashes Involvement rate (1)
Under 16 361,046 0.2% 115 NA 16,000 NA
16 to 20 12,280,859 5.8 4,292 34.95 1,219,000 9,923
21 to 24 14,265,636 6.7 4,465 31.30 1,050,000 7,361
25 to 34 36,892,373 17.4 8,517 23.09 1,944,000 5,269
35 to 44 36,938,903 17.4 7,058 19.11 1,734,000 4,695
45 to 54 41,172,350 19.4 7,493 18.20 1,501,000 3,645
55 to 64 35,397,534 16.7 5,542 15.66 1,106,000 3,123
65 to 74 20,511,896 9.7 2,947 14.37 506,000 2,465
Over 74 14,054,051 6.6 2,522 17.95 314,000 2,234
Total 211,874,649 100.0% 43,668 (2) 20.61 9,390,000 (2) 4,432
  1. Per 100,000 licensed drivers.
  2. Includes drivers of unknown age.

NA=Not applicable.

Source: U.S. Department of Transportation, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration; Federal Highway Administration.


The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety says that older drivers are keeping their licenses longer and driving more miles than ever before. The high fatality rates of this age group reflect the fact that older drivers are more easily injured than younger people and are more apt to have medical complications and die of those injuries. According to the Governors Highway Safety Administration, impairments in three key areas—vision, cognition and motor function—are responsible for higher crash rates for older drivers. Vision declines with age; cognition, which includes memory and attention, can be impacted by medical problems such as dementia and medication side effects; and motor function suffers as flexibility declines due to diseases such as arthritis.

Licensing Requirements and Restrictions: Some states restrict driving activities for people with certain medical conditions or after a serious accident or traffic violation. Depending on their ability, older drivers may be limited to driving during daylight hours or on nonfreeway types of roads. In most states restrictions such as these can be placed on anyone’s drivers’ license, regardless of age, if his or her medical condition warrants it.

Nine states require doctors to report any dangerous medical conditions that can impair a patient’s driving. Although this requirement covers drivers of all ages and a variety of medical conditions, at least one state—California—specifically requires doctors to report a diagnosis of dementia, which is a common symptom of Alzheimer’s disease. The importance of such requirements was highlighted by a study of accidents in Sweden and Finland, which found that one-third of drivers age 65 to 90 who were killed in crashes had brain lesions commonly found in Alzheimer’s patients, and another 20 percent had lesions that may indicate an early form of the disease.

Ten states currently require older drivers to take vision tests at license renewal (see chart). According to University of Baltimore and the Johns Hopkins University research reported in 1995, in the 38 states that mandated vision tests for license renewals at the time of the study, drivers age 70 or older were involved in 17.2 fatal accidents per 100,000 older drivers. In states where no testing was required, the ratio was 18.7 fatal crashes. Researchers characterized the difference as small but significant, especially since the number of 70 and older drivers was expected to grow substantially. A handful of states mandate other testing for older drivers at license renewal. For instance, in Illinois drivers over age 75 must take a road test when they renew their license. Ten states mandate that older drivers must renew their licenses in person; ages at which this takes effect vary from 65 years of age to 79.

Insurance Discounts: According to the National Association of Insurance Commissioners, by August 2011, 31 states and the District of Columbia mandated premium discounts for older adults. All but two of these states (Massachusetts and North Carolina) require older drivers (usually age 55 and over) to complete an approved accident prevention course. In addition, ten states mandate discounts to all drivers (including older drivers) who take defensive driving or other drivers’ education courses. In general the state mandated discounts apply to the liability coverages because they are most relevant. However, the regulations vary by state. For instance in Massachusetts the older adult discount applies to all coverages for drivers over the age of 65.

In addition, some insurance companies offer discounts in the states in which they do business for drivers who complete defensive driving or other approved courses, including discounts for seniors who take AARP courses.

National websites of interest include:

© Insurance Information Institute, Inc. – ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

Article Source: http://www.iii.org

Posted 3:57 pm