The number of older Americans will reach more than 70 million by the year 2030 and 90 percent of them will be licensed drivers. Older adults overwhelmingly prefer to drive as their means of transportation, with being a passenger their second preferred option—most likely in a vehicle driven by another older adult. The number of older people on the road will increase in the near future, when one of every four drivers will be age 65 years or older.
Age-related physical, cognitive, and sensory changes may affect an older adult’s ability to drive safely, but age alone is not an indicator of an individual’s fitness to drive. Driver assessment, training, education, and rehabilitation provide a means of enhancing senior mobility and independence. Without adequate, affordable, or accessible transportation older adults cannot access the goods and services, healthcare, social networks, and recreational activities that contribute to their overall quality of life, as well as their ability to age in place.
Seniors are generally safe drivers — they have fewer crashes per licensed driver than any other age group, the highest rate of seatbelt use, and the lowest level of alcohol-related incidents. Unfortunately, due to greater physical frailty, they are more likely than drivers in other age groups to be injured or killed in the event of an accident. The risk of fatality is greatest for those drivers age 85 years and older, 11 times that of drivers age 40 to 49 years.