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Senior driving stats

Vehicle death rates for senior citizens have dropped nearly a third in recent years but are still well above younger drivers.

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two seniors driving in a convertible on an open road

Drivers age 65 and older may experience some age-related driving concerns. But how do these changes influence licensing laws and insurance rates? These driving stats can help you understand how age affects navigating the open road and inform you of any serious safety risks.

How many elderly drivers are on the road?

Over 45 million licensed drivers are aged 65 or over, says the latest 2018 Highway Statistics report from the US Department of Transportation Federal Highway Administration (FHWA). To put that number into perspective, that means 1 out of every 5 drivers hitting US roads are in this age group.

What’s more, the number of senior drivers has increased by 69% from 1999 to 2018. That’s an average annual increase of over 3.5% more seniors driving on the road.

YearLicensed elderly drivers (thousands)
199423,629
199525,055
199626,545
199726,175
199826,246
199926,794
200028,324
200127,571
200228,413
200328,601
200428,974
200529,338
200630,133
200731,044
200832,237
200932,932
201033,729
201134,564
201235,943
201336,830
201438,448
201540,091
201641,704
201743,615
201845,248

Which state has the most senior drivers?

West Virginia sees the greatest percentage of senior drivers, with 27% of this state’s licensed drivers over the age of 65. This may be attributed to a rise in its senior population, translating to more senior drivers on the road.

The same goes for places like Florida and Maine — states with an older average population tend to have more senior drivers.

Which state has the fewest senior drivers?

Utah has the lowest percentage of senior drivers, with only 15% of licensed drivers over the age of 65, according to FHWA highway stats. This small percentage makes sense since there’s a lower percentage of people 65 and older overall living in Utah.

Although not a state, Washington DC holds an even lower percentage of senior drivers than Utah, with only 14% of licensed drivers at age 65 or older.

StatePercentage
Alabama22.30%
Alaska15.73%
Arizona18.83%
Arkansas22.52%
California16.28%
Colorado17.91%
Connecticut20.35%
Delaware22.54%
District of Columbia14.36%
Florida23.35%
Georgia17.80%
Hawaii21.59%
Idaho21.01%
Illinois20.35%
Indiana19.93%
Iowa20.43%
Kansas20.39%
Kentucky20.55%
Lousiana20.96%
Maine24.06%
Maryland17.97%
Massachusetts19.05%
Michigan21.08%
Minnesota22.80%
Mississippi21.65%
Missouri20.55%
Montana23.26%
Nebraska20.19%
New Hampshire23.49%
New Jersey19.55%
New Mexico20.97%
New York21.37%
New Carolina20.46%
New Dakota18.48%
Ohio21.28%
Oklahoma21.24%
Oregon23.36%
Pennsylvania22.32%
Rhode Island20.29%
South Carolina21.30%
South Dakota22.68%
Tennessee20.06%
Texas17.12%
Utah15.15%
Vermont23.66%
Virginia19.36%
Washington18.13%
West Virginia26.63%
Wisconsin21.15%
Wyoming21.23%

How often are senior citizens involved in car accidents?

Over 8,100 adults aged 65 or older were killed in motor vehicle crashes in 2018. Another estimated 212,000 seniors needed emergency care for nonfatal injuries.

Seniors as a whole experience a higher death rate due to car accidents. Those aged 65 and older had a vehicular death rate of 15.52 per 100,000 persons in 2018. Seniors 80 and older had the highest death rate at 20.21, which is nearly 77% higher than the national average of 12.13. Those younger than 65 had a much lower death rate of 11.48 per 100,000 persons.

That means 22 seniors died in car crashes every day on average, and another 580 were injured each day. But these stats don’t reflect who’s at fault for the accidents, only who’s being killed in car crashes.

Why are seniors facing higher death rates in car crashes? Seniors are more at risk of injury and it’s harder for seniors to recover after being injured in an accident. Age-related changes to vision, memory or decision making may affect driving skills or the quick reaction needed to prevent a crash.

Age groupDeath rate
00-042.25
05-091.82
10-141.93
15-1911.39
20-2418.77
25-2916.58
30-3414.46
35-3913.13
40-4412.31
45-4931.21
50-5413.53
55-5914.37
60-6413.42
65-6912.69
70-7413.75
75-7916.89
80-8419.93
85+20.48

Which age group causes the most fatal car accidents?

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, drivers younger than 40 had the highest involvement rate in fatal crashes in 2017, with 28.89 drivers involved in fatal crashes per 100,000 drivers.

Though senior drivers are more at risk in a car accident, they’re not necessarily worse drivers than those in other age groups. The age group with the lowest rate of driver involvement in fatal crashes were those 65 to 69, who had 14.82 drivers involved in fatal crashes per 100,000 drivers.

However, drivers older than 69 saw an increase in the rate of involvement in fatal crashes of about 11% every five years.

Are men or women more likely to be involved in a deadly car crash?

No matter the age group, men were shown to have higher death rates than women. In 2018 there were 28,149 deaths due to motor vehicle accidents among men, compared to 11,527 deaths among women. That’s more than twice as many men dying due to a crash than women.

Not all bad news for elderly drivers: motor vehicle death rate is steadily dropping.

The number of elderly drivers has been steadily increasing over time, with 45 million seniors licensed to drive in 2018. Even with more seniors hitting the road, the motor vehicle death rate among the elderly has actually decreased by 30.78% since 1999. The motor vehicle death rate per 100,000 people among the elderly was 22.42 in 1999 and decreased to 15.52 in 2018.

YearDeath rate
199922.42
200021.46
200121.38
200221.64
200321.03
200420.53
200520.17
200619.04
200718.70
200816.93
200915.78
201016.03
201115.96
201215.80
201315.11
201414.85
201515.41
201616.07
201716.05
201815.52

Which states are the deadliest for senior drivers?

The deadliest state for seniors when it comes to vehicular deaths is Oklahoma, with a death rate of 24.7 people per 100,000 seniors. A close second is Alabama, with a death rate of 24.6, closely followed by Mississippi’s 24.5.

On the flipside, the safest state for senior drivers is Rhode Island, with a death rate of 6.6 per 100,000 older people.

Characteristics of the safest states for driving could be the reason for fewer deadly accidents. Those may include a lower population in Rhode Island and robust public transit systems in parts of New York and Massachusetts. In either case, fewer seniors driving could indicate a reason for fewer deadly accidents.

RankStateSenior populationSenior death rate per 100,000 seniorsSenior death rate by motor vehicle per 100,000 seniors
1Oklahoma619,55315324.70
2Alabama826,89420324.55
3Mississippi474,47511624.45
4West Virginia359,8788323.06
5South Carolina899,91520422.67
6South Dakota146,8543121.11
7Arkansas511,82710821.10
8Kentucky730,62615320.94
9North Dakota116,6372420.58
10North Carolina1,689,26532819.42

Source: Web-based Injury Statistics Query and Reporting System (WISQARS) by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

RankStateSenior populationSenior death rate per 100,000 seniorsSenior death rate by motor vehicle per 100,000 seniors
1Utah350,4784011.41
2New Jersey1,438,52716111.19
3Washington1,164,23212911.08
4Maryland931,13610110.85
5Vermont121,20713*10.73*
6Hawaii260,967249.20
7Connecticut615,121528.45
8Massachusetts1,139,100968.43
9New York3,213,5342698.37
10Rhode Island1,689,26512*6.58*

Source: Web-based Injury Statistics Query and Reporting System (WISQARS) by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

StatePercentage
Alabama24.70
Alaska24.55
Arizona24.45
Arkansas23.06
California22.67
Colorado21.11
Connecticut21.10
Delaware20.94
District of Columbia20.58
Florida19.42
Georgia19.19
Hawaii18.33
Idaho17.75
Illinois17.39
Indiana17.06
Iowa17.02
Kansas17.01
Kentucky16.87
Lousiana16.17
Maine16.16
Maryland16.01
Massachusetts15.71
Michigan15.10
Minnesota15.08
Mississippi14.82
Missouri14.49
Montana14.45
Nebraska14.29
New Hampshire13.96
New Jersey13.63*
New Mexico13.52
New York13.50
New Carolina13.37
New Dakota13.03
Ohio12.73
Oklahoma12.70
Oregon11.89
Pennsylvania11.69
Rhode Island11.49*
South Carolina11.41
South Dakota11.19
Tennessee11.08
Texas10.85
Utah10.73*
Vermont9.20
Virginia8.45
Washington8.43
West Virginia8.37
Wisconsin6.58
Wyoming

What are the licensing requirements for seniors?

Every state has different licensing and renewal criteria for seniors. Additional testing and licensing requirements apply to senior drivers in 31 states, according to AAA’s State Laws map for senior drivers.

Depending on the state, requirements may include:

  • More frequent renewal cycles, ranging from two to eight years
  • Vision, hearing or health tests
  • Limiting renewal methods, such as requiring senior drivers to renew in person

Do senior drivers pay more for car insurance?

Typically drivers between ages 26 and 56 get the best rates on car insurance. But once you turn 65, some insurance companies raise your rates to compensate for additional driving risks.

What’s more, drivers older than 80 can have difficulty finding affordable rates and may even be denied coverage. Companies might deem drivers in this age group too high risk because of the greater chance of a serious accident.

Ways to lower your car insurance premiums as a senior driver:

  • Pay per mile. If you drive around 10,000 miles a year or less, consider using a telematics insurance company like Metromile or Root. These companies charge you based on your driving skills and mileage, potentially saving you money if you’re not driving as much as you used to. Base rates often start around $30 monthly and then add on a few pennies for each mile.
  • Take a defensive driving course. Keep your three- to five-year driving history current with a safe driving course. Doing so could qualify you for a defensive driving discount.
  • Name another person as the driver. Adding another person younger than 65 as the primary driver on your car insurance can lower your premium. Whomever you choose needs to be driving you around or using your car occasionally.
  • Look for senior discounts. Some car insurance companies offer lower rates or benefits to mature drivers over the age of 50, such as car insurance through AARP. But compare several companies to find the best rate.

Methodology

Our experts sourced motor vehicle crash data from the Web-based Injury Statistics Query and Reporting System (WISQARS) by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. We looked at fatal and nonfatal injury reports, with Motor vehicle traffic (categorized by injured person) selected as the cause of injuries.

The terms elderly, senior and older adults refer to people aged 65 years or older, unless a specific age group is mentioned. Death rate refers to the crude death rate, which counts how many deaths happened each year for every 100,000 people in the selected population. Driver involvement in fatal crashes refers to the crude involvement rates in fatal crashes by driver, which counts the number of drivers involved in fatal traffic crashes every year for every 100,000 licensed drivers in the selected population.

Sources:

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