The most recent figures from the U.S. Census Bureau indicate that as of July 2015, there were 47.8 million people age 65 and older in the United States. That represents 14.0 percent of the total population. By 2060 that number is projected to more than double to 98.2 million which will represent nearly one in four people living in the U.S, with 20 million 85 or older. Unlike previous generations, the baby boom generation (those born between 1946 and 1964) will live and drive longer and farther than their parents and grandparents. While older adults tend to practice safe driving behaviors, the effects of aging have a profound impact on their driving ability. What makes it difficult for highway safety countermeasures is that there is no specific date or time when any of these effects occur and to what degree someone can be affected. Aging impacts people differently, but the fact remains that older adults represent 19 percent of all licensed drivers and accounted for 18 percent of all fatalities.
In 2014, NHTSA recognized the issue and released Highway Safety Program Guideline No. 13, Older Driver Safety. It stated that state highway safety offices (SHSOs) should have a program that aims to reduce older driver crashes, fatalities, and injuries. Each state older driver safety program should address driver licensing and medical review of at-risk drivers, medical and law enforcement education, roadway design, and collaboration with social services and transportation services providers. It is unclear to what extent state highway safety offices are addressing this guideline or preparing to meet the increased challenges for the older driver population in the future.
The objective of this research is to determine what states are doing to promote older driver safety, the SHSOs current roles and levels of involvement in supporting older driver safety programs, the challenges SHSOs are facing in this area, best practices, and what can be done to meet the safety needs of the age 65 and older driver population.