Senior drivers can find age-related changes impact their driving abilities, like medication side effects, reduced reaction time and impaired vision. Over 233,000 seniors were injured in accidents in 2020, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). Although senior drivers likely have decades of experience behind the wheel, cognitive and physical declines that contribute to increases in car accidents and fatalities can cause safety concerns. It raises the question: when is it no longer safe for these age groups to continue driving? Identifying when the time has come can help keep everyone safer, including pedestrians and bicyclists. Bankrate’s insurance editorial team has compiled some key facts about senior drivers to help you better understand some of the potential risks.

Key senior driver statistics

  • 29 percent of drivers are considered senior drivers (Federal Highway Administration)
  • Senior drivers, considered those aged 65 and over, were involved in 13 percent of fatal accidents in 2020, up 26 percent from the organization’s previous study in 2011. (National Highway and Traffic Safety Administration-NHTSA)
  • 233,235 people aged 65 and older were injured in traffic accidents in 2020. (NHTSA) 
  • Between 2000 and 2020, the number of licensed senior drivers, or those aged 65 and older, increased by 68 percent to nearly 48 million drivers. (Center for Disease Control-CDC)
  • Drivers older than 70 have higher crash death rates per 1,000 crashes than drivers aged 35-54, primarily due to increased vulnerability to injury in a crash. (CDC)
  • The most driver deaths occur in October according to a 2021 study. (National Safety Council-NSC)

Senior drivers by the numbers

Seniors are still choosing to get behind the wheel, even as they age. Since 2010, each senior age group has increased the number of licensed drivers year over year. There were 47,667,706 licensed senior drivers (aged 65 and up) across the country as of 2022, according to data provided by the Federal Highway Administration (FHA). Of those nearly 50 million drivers, 24,771,683 were female drivers and 22,896,023 were male drivers.

  • 65-69 8,385,883 9,221,601 11,468,003 14,788,404 16,574,842
    70-74 7,467,560 7,372,471 8,230,912 10,232,234 13,297,010
    75-79 5,911,149 6,055,762 6,157,899 6,833,757 8,634,599
    80-84 3,511,067 4,121,678 4,463,610 4,521,433 5,168,970
    85+ 2,050,150 2,569,761 3,411,194 3,716,131 3,992,285

Accidents involving senior drivers

The most common causes of senior driver accidents are failing to yield the right-of-way, failure to adequately surveil their surroundings and misjudging another driver’s speed or the gap between their vehicle and another car.

For every 1,000 people involved in crashes, senior drivers are involved in 96.61 accidents. The older the senior driving, the more likely they are to cause, or be involved in, an accident.

Senior driver statistics from the NHTSA show that over 70 percent of crash fatalities occur during the day, with 69 percent happening on weekdays and almost all involving at least one other vehicle, at 66 percent. The overall data for all drivers for crashes by month from the NSC shows June through October see the most deaths from car accidents. October has the highest number of driver deaths at 4,101, followed by August at 4,013, according to the most recent data available from 2021.

  • 65-69 1.3 2.8
    70-74 1.7 3.2
    75-79 2.1 3.6
    80-84 4.3 5.2
    85+ 7.6 6.6

    Source: IIHS

  • January 3,099
    February 2,561
    March 3,214
    April 3,557
    May 3,768
    June 3,789
    July 3,789
    August 4,013
    September 3,861
    October 4,101
    November 3,599
    December 3,498

    Source: NSC

Injuries and Fatalities

Senior citizens are more likely to receive fatal injuries in a car accident compared to younger age groups because aging bodies are typically more vulnerable to injury. According to the NHTSA, across all age groups including senior drivers, male drivers have a higher death rate than female drivers. Both male and female drivers have the highest fatality rate in the 85 and older age group.

The NHTSA also found there are more senior driver fatalities for those aged 65 and older in Wyoming than any other state.

  • 2011 9.99 13.11
    2012 10.39 13.00
    2013 9.99 12.81
    2014 9.90 12.40
    2015 10.68 13.09
    2016 11.26 13.91
    2017 11.11 13.51
    2018 10.85 13.32
    2019 10.59 13.44
    2020 11.72 11.77

    Source: NHTSA

  • 60-64 1.8597
    65-69 2.1899
    70-74 2.7398
    75-79 3.8108
    80+ 6.5017

    Source: IIHS

  • Alabama 71 61 27 28 27 18
    Alaska 0 0 0 0 0 0
    Arizona 99 49 40 38 29 15
    Arkansas 50 36 24 24 16 13
    California 310 249 160 96 103 100
    Colorado 47 35 30 16 11 16
    Connecticut 14 19 10 11 13 12
    Delaware 0 11 0 0 0 0
    District of Columbia 0 0 0 0 0 0
    Florida 278 184 154 145 103 121
    Georgia 135 99 64 76 51 39
    Hawaii 0 0 0 0 0 0
    Idaho 20 19 10 0 0 0
    Illinois 83 75 56 53 28 38
    Indiana 63 47 45 35 25 18
    Iowa 23 19 12 20 12 12
    Kansas 40 25 24 17 16 21
    Kentucky 54 37 43 40 26 23
    Louisiana 53 47 34 29 14 22
    Maine 16 16 0 0 0 0
    Maryland 42 20 33 23 17 25
    Massachusetts 21 28 19 14 14 17
    Michigan 90 64 59 63 40 48
    Minnesota 40 31 21 15 27 16
    Mississippi 62 55 24 16 10 13
    Missouri 67 51 44 41 29 30
    Montana 0 0 0 0 0 0
    Nebraska 17 23 0 0 0 10
    Nevada 22 15 25 19 0 10
    New Hampshire 10 0 13 0 0 0
    New Jersey 52 35 34 31 26 24
    New Mexico 31 21 13 13 0 14
    New York 77 71 54 56 36 44
    North Carolina 101 85 77 64 53 52
    North Dakota 0 0 0 0 0 0
    Ohio 98 72 74 47 38 44
    Oklahoma 58 38 42 22 17 14
    Oregon 41 36 23 23 16 22
    Pennsylvania 99 67 55 64 44 50
    Rhode Island 0 0 0 0 0 0
    South Carolina 68 48 48 28 24 31
    South Dakota 12 11 0 0 0 0
    Tennessee 83 60 51 47 38 30
    Texas 263 204 152 119 72 64
    Utah 20 17 19 14 10 10
    Vermont 0 0 0 0 0 0
    Virginia 71 47 43 28 30 31
    Washington 48 32 34 26 15 28
    West Virginia 17 22 21 15 11 10
    Wisconsin 46 48 31 25 22 22
    Wyoming 0 10 0 0 0 0

    Source: CDC

Insurance claims by senior drivers

Seniors drivers file 48.96 property damage liability and collision claims per 100 insured vehicle years compared to drivers of younger age groups, according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS).

Typically, car insurance rates decrease as you age, but seniors may find their insurance premiums increasing. Although senior citizens’ driving experience is greater than younger age groups, insurers may increase premiums or deny coverage due to higher accident risk behind the wheel.

Senior drivers facing higher premiums may find that comparing insurance quotes among several carriers might help them lower their cost of car insurance. Consider some well-known cheap car insurance companies as a starting point when comparing carriers and premium costs.

Some of the best car insurance companies can also have affordable rates for some senior citizens. Multiple factors like your ZIP code, claims history, the make and model of your vehicle, coverage choices and miles you drive will help determine how much you will pay with each carrier.

  • 60-64 2.54 4.81
    65-69 2.53 4.79
    70-74 2.71 4.91
    75-79 3.03 5.15
    80-84 3.44 5.43
    85+ 3.96 5.66

    Source: IIHS

Tips for senior drivers

While driving for seniors can be more difficult as they age, that does not mean they have to give up their license and independence. These tips might help seniors remain safe behind the wheel and as a passenger.

Plan before you drive

Before getting settled into the driver’s seat, senior drivers should take the time to plan their trip, according to the CDC. Review your route so you are familiar with the roads you will have to drive. Driving during the day and in dry conditions is safest. Poor weather and night driving can increase the risk of an accident. If possible, choose intersections with left-turn signals when green, rather than having to judge speed and vehicle distance when making a left turn on green.

Check your medications

It is not uncommon for seniors to take medications, whether prescription over-the-counter, or supplements. Although they may be medically necessary, the medications you take could also have a negative effect on your driving skills and increase your risk of being involved in an accident.

Check each medication or supplement for side effects and speak with your doctor or pharmacist if any side effects could affect you behind the wheel. The CDC offers a Personal Action Plan you can use to assist with the conversation.

Avoid distractions and mind your distance

Distractions can affect drivers of any age, like listening to the radio, changing a station, eating, or talking or texting on the phone. These distractions can further reduce reaction time that seniors with limited mobility or reflexes might already struggle with.

Improve strength and mobility

Committing to a regular activity plan can help improve strength and mobility, which might also improve your reflexes when driving. Senior driving statistics show the most common cause of accidents for this age group is frailty, which might also be improved by a regular fitness schedule.

Get your eyes checked annually

Getting your eyes checked once per year can help identify any changes that could affect your driving. You should also get an eye exam if you notice any sudden changes in your vision. Vision impairment can prevent you from seeing a pedestrian or bicyclist in the road or cause you to take longer to read traffic signs, slowing down your reaction time. Always wear your eyeglasses or contacts if they are prescribed for driving.

The bottom line

Senior drivers can face unique challenges on the road but can take steps to prevent being involved in car accidents. Fatalities for senior citizens occur most often during the day and on weekdays. Although driving for senior citizens can become more difficult with age, getting your eyes and health checked regularly, sticking with a regular exercise routine and checking medications for side effects that could impair driving abilities might help seniors stay safer on the road.

By Tara