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In 2021 more than 20% of licensed drivers in the United States were 65 or older (FHWA, 2022). As drivers age, their physical and mental abilities, driving behaviors, and crash risks all change, though age alone does not determine driving performance. Many features of the current system of roads, traffic signals and controls, laws, licensing practices, and vehicles were not designed to accommodate older drivers. Older Americans are increasingly dependent on driving to maintain their mobility, independence, and health. The challenge is to balance mobility for older drivers with safety for all road users.

The U.S. population 65 and older increased at a much faster rate (35.1%) than the total population (7.4%) from the years 2010 to 2020 (U.S. Census Bureau, 2010, 2020). The U.S. Census Bureau estimates that by 2030 the resident population over 65 will be 73 million and will comprise 21% of the total U.S. population (Vespa et al., 2020).

As the U.S. population 65 and older has grown, the proportion of licensed drivers 65+ has also risen, from 14% in 2001 to 21% in 2021 (FHWA, 2002, 2022). The proportion of fatal crashes involving older drivers follows a similar trend, rising from 11% in 2001 to 19% in 2021.

People 65 and Older: Number and Proportion of Total Population


Population 65+ (in millions)

% of Total Population

Licensed Drivers 65+ (in millions)

% of All Licensed Drivers

Drivers 65+ in Fatal Crashes

% of All Fatal Crashes






















*Projected numbers based on 2017 population estimates

Sources: FHWA (2002, 2022); NCSA (2012); Stewart (2023); U. S. Census Bureau (2011, 2021); Vespa et al. (2020)


The number of fatalities involving older drivers has been increasing in recent years, after experiencing a period of decline from 2000 to 2009. In 2021 there were 8,209 fatalities involving older drivers compared to the 29-year low of 5,613 in 2009 (NCSA, 2012; NHTSA, 2023). However, the older population has grown at a rate faster than the increase in fatalities involving older drivers.

Fatal Crashes Involving Drivers 65+ and Population Estimates

A line graph showing data from 2007 through 2021. Fatal crashes is on the first y-axis and population in millions is on the second y-axis. The lines show the difference in the increased rate of fatalities among older drivers compared to the growth in the older population.

Source: NCSA (2012); NHTSA (2023); U.S. Census Bureau (2011, 2010 to 2021).

*2020 U.S. Census American Community Survey 1-Year Estimate not available due to data quality concerns.


Not only is the U.S. population aging, with older people making up a larger proportion of the total population, but drivers are maintaining their licenses for longer as well. The proportion of people 65 or older who held driver licenses rose from 78% in 2001 to 89% in 2021 (FHWA, 2002, 2022b; U.S. Census Bureau 2011, 2022). Notably, 59% of people 85 years and older maintained their licenses in 2020, compared to approximately half (50%) who maintained licenses in 2000 (FHWA, 2002, 2022b).

With current life expectancy in this country at 78.8 years on average (Kochaneck et al., 2020), and with advances in medical science, older Americans are staying mobile and active longer. Those who will reach 65 in the coming decade have been projected to drive more miles and are expected to continue driving later in life than previous generations. This increasingly active and mobile older population gives rise to the need to enhance their safety, and the safety of all road users, while addressing their mobility needs and quality of life.