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TRIP Report: PRESERVING THE MOBILITY AND SAFETY OF OLDER AMERICANS

Executive Summary

Today’s older Americans enjoy a level of mobility and an active lifestyle that far outpaces previous generations. Demographic trends indicate that the number and proportion of older Americans have increased dramatically in recent years and will continue to do so. The provision of transportation improvements that will make it easier for older American’s to maintain their mobility will benefit users of all ages. And anticipated developments in self-driving and connected vehicles have the potential to provide older Americans with additional mobility options in the future.

As the number and proportion of older drivers increases, roadway safety improvements designed to make it easier for older drivers to navigate traffic are becoming increasingly important, as older Americans grapple with the effects of aging while trying to maintain a level of mobility that matches their active lifestyle.

This report explores mobility and safety issues for older Americans and presents a set of recommendations for implementing a transportation system that can better serve the safety and mobility needs of older Americans and the population at large.

older American demographics

Older Americans form a significant proportion of the overall population and a rapidly increasing number and share of licensed drivers. The number and proportion of older Americans is expected to increase dramatically in the coming years.

  • An estimated 46 million Americans are 65 or older, accounting for 15 percent of the total population. By 2060, the number of Americans ages 65 and older is projected to more than double to over 98 million, and the proportion of the total population over 65 will rise to nearly 24 percent.
  • The number and proportion of licensed drivers 65 or older has surged in the last decade. From 2006 to 2016, the number of licensed drivers 65 or older has increased 38 percent – from 30.1 million in 2006 to 41.7 million in 2016. The proportion of licensed drivers 65 or older has risen from 15 percent in 2006 to 17 percent in 2012 to 19 percent in 2016.
  • The number of all licensed drivers in the U.S. increased by nine percent from 2006 to 2016 from 202.8 million to 221.7 million and the number of licensed drivers less than 65 increased by four percent from 2006 to 2016 from 172.7 million to 180 million.
  • The number of licensed drivers who are 65 or older increased by 16 percent from 2012 to 2016.
  • The number of all licensed drivers increased by five percent from 2012 to 2016 and the number of licensed drivers less than 65 increased by two percent from 2012 to 2016.
  • California, Florida, Texas, New York and Pennsylvania lead the nation in the number of licensed drivers 65 and older. West Virginia, Florida, Maine, Vermont and Arkansas lead the nation in the proportion of licensed drivers who are 65 years or older. Louisiana, Arkansas, South Carolina, Tennessee and Hawaii have seen the greatest increases in the number of licensed drivers in the last five years. The chart below details the 20 states with the highest number of licensed drivers 65 and older, the highest proportion of licensed drivers 65 and older, and the states with the largest increase in the number of licensed drivers 65 and older from 2012 to 2016. Data for all 50 states can be found in the appendix.

FATALITY AND CRASH RATES AMONG OLDER DRIVERS

The number of older drivers killed or involved in fatal crashes has increased significantly in the last five years, partly due to the increasing number of older drivers and the larger share of drivers who are 65 and older.

  • From 2012 to 2016, there was a 22 percent increase in the number of fatalities in crashes involving at least one driver 65 or older. The number of drivers 65 or older killed in crashes increased 21 percent from 2012 to 2016. Data for all 50 states, as well as a comparison to 2012, can be found in the appendix.
  • The overall number of traffic fatalities in the U.S. increased 11 percent from 2012 to 2016, from 33,782 to 37,461 fatalities.
  • The chart below details the 20 states with the highest number of traffic fatalities in crashes involving at least one driver age 65 or older in 2016, as well as the states with the highest proportion of fatalities in crashes involving at least one driver 65 or older.

 

  • The chart below details the 20 states with the greatest increase between 2012 and 2016 in the number of fatalities in crashes involving at least one driver 65 or older. Nationwide, fatalities in crashes involving at least one driver 65 or older increased 22 percent from 2012 to 2016.

  • The chart below details the 20 states with the highest number of drivers 65 and older killed in traffic crashes in 2016. Data for all 50 states, as well as a comparison to 2012, can be found in the appendix.

OLDER DRIVER MOBILITY AND QUALITY OF LIFE

Older Americans are more mobile and active than ever and want to maintain that lifestyle for as long as possible. Private vehicles remain the overwhelming transportation mode of choice for older Americans. The level of mobility enjoyed by older Americans is closely tied to their quality of life.

  • For those 65 and older, 90 percent of travel takes place in a private vehicle, and for Americans 85 and older, 80 percent of travel occurs in a private vehicle.
  • The majority of older Americans – 79 percent- tend to live in car-dependent suburban and rural communities, which typically require frequent, longer distance trips by automobile.      Because they tend to limit their driving to non-peak hours (typically 9:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m.), older drivers are disproportionately affected by growing levels of congestion. Their window of opportunity for travel narrows considerably as morning and evening rush hours become longer and midday congestion continues to grow.
  • Many older drivers report self-regulating their driving by traveling only on familiar routes during daylight hours, avoiding left turns and sticking to less complex roads with lower traffic volumes during off-peak travel times.
  • More than 600,000 people aged 70 or older stop driving each year and become dependent on others to meet their transportation needs. Men typically outlive their driving days by seven years and women by ten years.
  • Compared with older drivers, older non-drivers in the U.S. make 15 percent fewer trips to the doctor, 59 percent fewer shopping trips and restaurant trips, and 65 percent fewer trips for social, family and religious activities.

CHALLENGES FOR OLDER DRIVERS

Certain situations and driving environments can be especially challenging or hazardous for older motorists. The higher instance of fatalities among older drivers is largely attributable to the physical fragility that makes surviving a crash less likely than younger drivers.

  • Beginning at age 65, the primary danger facing older drivers is their physical fragility, making older drivers much more likely to die when they do crash.
  • Compared to experienced middle-aged drivers, research has found that 60-95 percent of the elevated fatality rates per mile driven for older drivers can be attributed to the fragility that makes surviving a crash more difficult. By comparison, for drivers younger than 20, over-involvement in crashes accounts for more than 95 percent of their excess fatality rates compared with middle-aged drivers.
  • On average, drivers in their mid- to late-eighties have lower crash rates per miles driven than drivers in their early twenties, and roughly half the crash rates of teenagers.
  • In the face of elevated risks, older drivers tend to be very responsible on the road, with a higher rate of seatbelt use than younger drivers, greater avoidance of higher-risk driving environments (such as at night or in rain), and a lower likelihood to drink and drive or be otherwise impaired.
  • As people age, their eyesight, reaction time, cognitive ability and muscle dexterity may deteriorate, often making the tasks associated with driving more difficult. Aging may also limit a body’s range of motion, making it more difficult to scan all directions for nearby vehicles or potential hazards. 
  • According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), in 2016, 37 percent of all fatal crashes where at least one driver was aged 65 or older occurred at an intersection or were related to an intersection. However, for fatal crashes where no driver was aged 65 or older, only 20 percent were at an intersection or intersection related.
  • In 2015 74 percent of traffic fatalities in crashes involving older drivers occurred during the daytime, 70 percent occurred on weekdays, and 67 percent involved other vehicles. This is compared to all fatalities in 2015, where 49 percent occurred during the daytime, 59 percent on weekdays, and 44 percent involved another vehicle
  • Left-hand turns are more problematic for older drivers, as they must make speed, distance and gap judgments simultaneously to enter or cross the through roadway.
  • Deteriorated vision among older drivers may make small or complex road signage difficult to process. Signs may be misunderstood or not seen quickly enough to caution older drivers about upcoming exits, obstacles or changes in traffic patterns. The amount of light needed by drivers doubles every 13 years, starting at age 20. A 72-year-old needs 16 times the amount of light required by a 20-year-old to drive safely.

DRIVING ALTERNATIVES FOR OLDER AMERICANS

Older drivers who decide to give up the keys still have options available for maintaining their mobility, though some may come with challenges or drawbacks. Advancements in self-driving and connected vehicle technology may eventually allow older Americans to retain the convenience of private vehicle travel after they are no longer able to drive.

TRANSIT

  • While public transit offers an alternative to driving, for older Americans, public transit accounts for just two percent of trips.
  • Older Americans may be reluctant to use transit options because they may have difficulty getting from home to the transit pick-up, or from the transit drop off to their ultimate destination. Crowding, long waits and the physical challenges of boarding a bus may also deter older travelers from using available transit options.
  • A significant proportion of older Americans live in rural areas, where transit options may not be readily available. Seventy percent of Americans over fifty live where transit does not exist or serves the area very poorly.
  • Transit systems can be improved to better accommodate older Americans as well as the population at large. These improvements include expanded bus routes; transit vehicles, stops or facilities that better accommodate older or physically challenged passengers; and, additional non-traditional and private sector approaches to transit, including formal and informal ridesharing and taxi services.

RIDE SHARING SERVICES

  • Ride-sharing services like Uber or Lyft can help older Americans maintain their mobility if they are no longer driving. Ridesharing services allow a passenger to use a smartphone app to set a specific pick-up and drop-off point for their trip and summon a private vehicle driven by its owner to complete the trip. However, ride-sharing services often require the use of smartphones, yet less than one -third of Americans over age 65 own a smartphone.
  • Ride-sharing services may not be available or may be limited in rural areas, where many older Americans live.

SELF-DRIVING AND CONNECTED VEHICLES

  • Advances in automotive technology include self-driving vehicles, which do not require the driver to be in control of the vehicle, and connected vehicles, which recognize potential collision situations and allow for crash avoidance through communication between nearby vehicles.
  • Approximately 94 percent of crashes involve human error. Advanced vehicle technology can be of particular assistance to older drivers as it addresses the deficits that may impact motorists as they age. These include identifying vehicles or objects in blind spots, intersection navigation, left turn assist, early warning when vehicles ahead slow or brake suddenly, or warnings when it is not safe to change lanes or pass another vehicle. While these technologies can provide warnings that help drivers avoid a collision, they may also increase distractions behind the wheel.
  • For those who have completely stopped driving, self-driving vehicles may offer the ability to regain their mobility in a private vehicle. However, the timeline for the widespread use of self-driving and connected vehicles is uncertain, and their adoption by older drivers may be slower than that of the general population.
  • In addition to the long timeframe for potential widespread adoption of self-driving vehicles, other uncertainties about the technology still exist, including: the relatively early stage of research and deployment of self-driving technology outside tightly controlled environments, questions about human interactions with the technology, and the potential detriment of overreliance on self-driving technology.
  • While widespread use and adoption of self-driving vehicles may not happen in the near future, many vehicles are already equipped with technological features that are found in self-driving cars. These include adaptive cruise control and headlights; backup and parking assist; blind spot, forward collision and lane departure warning systems; navigation assistance; and integrated Bluetooth capabilities for cell phones. Research by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety found that nearly 60 percent of older drivers surveyed had at least one advanced technology in their primary vehicle.

RECOMMENDATIONS FOR IMPROVING MOBILITY AND SAFETY FOR OLDER AMERICANS

The following set of recommendations can improve the mobility and safety of older Americans. These improvements will also improve mobility and safety for all motorists.

SAFER ROADS:

  • Clearer, brighter and simpler signage with larger lettering, including overhead indicators for turning lanes and overhead street signs. This should include minimum levels of retroreflectivity.
  • Brighter street lighting, particularly at intersections, and bright, retroreflective pavement markings. Studies also show that increasing the width of pavement markings from 4 inches to 6 inches helps with decreasing lane departure and crashes, especially with older drivers.
  • Where appropriate, widening or adding left-turn lanes and increasing the length of merge or exit lanes.
  • Where appropriate, replacing intersections with roundabouts can eliminate left turns and slow the speed of traffic through an intersection, both of which address common challenges among older drivers.
  • Where appropriate, widening lanes and shoulders to reduce the consequence of driving mistakes.
  • Adding rumble strips to warn motorists when they are leaving the roadway.
  • Making roadway curves more gradual and easier to navigate.
  • Where appropriate, design and operate roads to accommodate all users of the roadway.
  • Adding countdown pedestrian signals and leading pedestrian intervals, which allow for additional time for pedestrians in the intersection before cars get a green light.
  • Adding refuge islands for pedestrians at intersections.
  • Highway network and transportation system planning, design, maintenance, and operations functions are all likely to require adaptation to meet technical, policy, and legal expectations of a changing vehicle fleet that is technologically connected to other vehicles and the roadway itself.

SAFER ROAD USERS

  • Promotion of education and training programs for older drivers.
  • Raising awareness among older drivers of appropriate safety precautions and seat belt use.

SAFER VEHICLES:

  • Implementing self-driving and connected vehicle technology and the inclusion of additional safety features on new vehicles to address the deficits drivers may face as they age.
  • Improving crashworthiness of vehicles to better protect occupants and withstand impacts.
  • Development of Intelligent Transportation System (ITS) technologies, including crash avoidance technologies.

IMPROVED TRANSPORTATION OPTIONS

  • Ensuring public transit vehicles, facilities and stops are easily accessible and accommodating to elderly or disabled passengers.
  • Expanding bus and transit routes.
  • Implementing non-traditional and public sector approaches that are tailored to the needs of older adults, including ridesharing, volunteer driving programs, door-to-door community transportation services, taxi services, and vehicle donation.

    CONCLUSION

    Older Americans represent an increasing share of the nation’s population and of its licensed drivers. As they strive to maintain the active and fulfilling lifestyles to which they have become accustomed, the nation’s transportation system will need to be improved to accommodate them. Providing transportation improvements that will make it easier for older American’s to maintain their mobility benefits users of all ages.

    For older Americans, as well as the population in general, the ability to travel represents freedom, activity, and choice. Older Americans prize their mobility and active lifestyles and want to maintain them as long as possible, often by maintaining their ability to drive.

    Improvements in roadway design, additional highway safety features, expanded transportation options, driver education and the development of self-driving and connected vehicles can help older Americans maintain their mobility in a safe manner while also providing significant benefits to the larger traveling public.

For full report visit: www.tripnet.org

All data used in this report is the most current available. Sources of information for this report include: The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), ChORUS (Clearinghouse for Older Road User Safety), AAA, The Brookings Institution, Monash University, AARP Public Policy Institute; the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety(IIHS) and the U.S. Census Bureau.

TRIP_Older_Americans_Mobility_Report_Appendix_FINAL_3-13-18

America’s Top 10 Transportation Projects

America’s Top 10 Transportation ProjectsAmerica’s Top 10 Transportation Projects

America’s Top 10 Transportation Projects Competing for Two National Awards: 7th Annual Contest Sponsored by AASHTO, AAA and US Chamber of Commerce

CAThe American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials, AAA, and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce recently announced the 2014 America’s Transportation Awards competition top 10 projects.

“While all 73 projects nominated deserve recognition for their contributions to improving transportation in America, these 10 remaining projects are the best of the best,” said Bud Wright, AASHTO executive director. “This competition recognizes excellence in project delivery. It’s about saving time and taxpayers’ money and improving the ability of people, manufacturers, farmers and service providers to move themselves and their goods, reliably, every day.”

This year, a record 36 states and the District of Columbia entered 73 projects that were judged in three categories: “Under Budget,” “Best Use of Innovation,” and a new category this year “Quality of Life/Community Development.”

The 10 finalists received the highest number of overall points during four regional competitions. The nation will decide through online voting which of the projects will receive the People’s Choice Award. A panel of experts will select the Grand Prize winner.

The Grand Prize and People’s Choice award winners will each earn a $10,000 donation from AASHTO on behalf of the winning state DOT to a charity or scholarship fund of its choosing. Both awards will be presented Nov. 23 at the AASHTO Annual Meeting in Charlotte.

Online voting begins today, Sept. 8, and will continue through Friday, Oct. 24, at http://AmericasTransportationAwards.org. Individuals are welcome to vote up to 10 times per day for their favorite projects.

The top 10 finalists in alphabetical order are:

  • California—San Francisco–Oakland Bay Bridge: California Department of Transportation’s $6.3 billion San Francisco–Oakland Bay Bridge project completely replaced a nearly 80-year-old structure with a new, modern bridge featuring advanced earthquake response technology. The bridge is also built to accommodate future expansions in light rail, bus, and other modes of transportation.
  • Colorado—September 2013 Flood Response: Colorado Department of Transportation’s $50 million quick and efficient response to damage caused by the major September 2013 floods greatly improved the lives of state residents. CDOT coordinated with the National Guard, local leaders and residents, and private contractors to reopen the last of the closed roadways in December 2013, just 10 weeks after the catastrophic event.
  • Florida—Mathews Bridge Impact & Emergency Repair Project: Florida DOT’s $3.8 million Mathews Bridge Impact and Emergency Repair Project required a fast and efficient fix for a major Jacksonville crossing that was struck by a naval ship. The bridge reopened for traffic 12 days ahead of schedule and only 33 days after the collision.
  • Illinois/Missouri—Mississippi River Bridge: Illinois and Missouri DOTs joined forces to complete the $229.5 million Mississippi River Bridge Project, a project to reduce congestion and improve safety for the St. Louis crossing. The project reduced delays and congestion for the nearly 120,000 daily commuters between St. Louis City, Missouri, and St. Clair County, Illinois. The project also saved $37 million in taxpayer funds.
  • Indiana—I-65/I-70 Split: Indiana Department of Transportation’s $12.4 million I-65/I-70 South Split Project increased safety by constructing the lower one-half mile of pavement beneath seven bridges. By reducing construction time from the typical 90 days down to 44 days, the project costs decreased from $20 million to $12.4 million, all while minimizing impacts to freight carriers and motorists.
  • New York—I-84 Bridges Replacement over Dingle Ridge Road: The $10.2 million project by NYSDOT replaced two deficient bridges on I-84, and utilized a new construction technique that reduced the two-year construction project to only two weekends and minimized delays on this major route between New York and Connecticut.
  • Ohio—S. Route 33 Nelsonville Bypass: Ohio Department of Transportation’s $200 million Nelsonville Bypass project relieved a major congestion problem for US 33 by constructing a four-lane bypass highway. Combined with other local road improvements, the project reduced travel time through the area by 30 minutes and offered a faster route through southeast Ohio.
  • Rhode Island—Pawtucket Bridge Replacement: RIDOT Pawtucket Bridge Replacement project restored full use of an essential interstate highway by replacing a deficient bridge. The bridge replacement on Interstate 95 made the roadway safer and was completed $46 million under its $123 million budget.
  • Texas—SH99/Grand Parkway Segment E: Texas Department of Transportation’s $320 million SH99/Grand Parkway, Segment E project represents the newest section of a planned 185-mile loop around the Houston metro region. Segment E improves system linkage within the existing transportation network and it will mitigate congestion on numerous roadway segments on the state’s “100 most congested” list.
  • WYWyoming—Togwoteemnbvgfcvgbhgfdghjhgfdfghjuytr4er5t6y77654356654356754345698 Trail to Yellowstone: Wyoming Department of Transportation’s $146.2 million Togwotee Trail to Yellowstone project increased safety and mobility by upgrading a 50-year-old road on a major route leading to Yellowstone National Park and Grand Teton National Park. New shoulders, passing lanes and upgraded bridges and parking facilities allow a safer trip through some of America’s most beautiful scenery.

Cast your vote today!

 

TRIP Report: Traffic Fatalities Among Older Drivers Remain Disproportionately High

As Baby Boomers Begin To Turn 65, U.S. Transportation System Insufficient To Meet Their Growing Mobility And Safety Needs

Eds. TRIP’s report identifies states with highest number and share of older drivers, states with highest fatality and crash rates involving older drivers, strategies to help aging motorists remain mobile, and recommended transportation improvements.

As the Baby Boom Generation begins to turn 65, the number of older Americans and their share of the overall population will swell dramatically. But, according to a new report, although these older Americans will be more mobile and active than any previous generation, they will face a transportation system that is inadequate to offer the mobility and safety demanded by older Americans and the population in general. The report, “Keeping Baby Boomers Mobile: Preserving Mobility and Safety for Older Americans,” was released today by TRIP, a national non-profit transportation research group based in Washington, D.C.

Despite their efforts to modify their own driving, and the fact that overall fatalities have declined in recent years, older motorists are still involved in a disproportionately high share of traffic fatalities. In 2010, there were 5,750 fatalities in crashes involving at least one driver 65 or older. And although drivers 65 and older account for eight percent of all miles driven, they comprise 17 percent of all traffic fatalities. Data for each state can be found in the report’s appendix.

According to the TRIP report, the population of Americans 65 and older will grow by 60 percent by 2025, at which time one in every five drivers will be over the age of 65. Because of good nutrition, improved health care, better education and higher incomes, new generations of older Americans will be more mobile, healthy and active for a longer portion of their lives than those just a few decades ago. For those 65 and older, 90 percent of travel takes place in a private vehicle.

        “The growing ranks of older Americans will far outpace previous generations with their level of mobility and activity. Serving their needs will require a transportation system that includes safer roads, safer vehicles, safer drivers and improved choices,” said Will Wilkins, executive director of TRIP. “Congress can help not only older drivers, but all drivers by passing long-term federal surface transportation legislation now.”

The TRIP report offers a set of recommendations to improve the mobility and safety of older Americans. Since many of these recommendations are designed to reduce the consequences of driving errors, they would make roads safer for all Americans. These recommendations include the following:

  • SAFER ROADS: clearer, brighter and simpler signage with large lettering; brighter street markings, particularly at intersections; widening or adding left-turn lanes and extending the length of merge or exit lanes; adding rumble strips.
  • SAFER DRIVERS: promoting education and training programs for older drivers; evaluating and monitoring “at risk” older motorists through appropriate licensing requirements.
  • SAFER VEHICLES: improving vehicles to help withstand and avoid crashes.
  • IMPROVED CHOICES: ensuring public transit routes, vehicles, facilities and stops are easily accessible and accommodating to older or disabled passengers; and expanding non-traditional approaches tailored to the needs of older adults.

Keeping Baby Boomers Mobile:

 

Preserving the Mobility and Safety of Older Americans

Executive Summary

With the first wave of the Baby Boom Generation turning 65 in 2011, the number of older Americans and their share of the population will begin to grow significantly in the coming years. And as this generation continues to age and grow, it will demand a level of mobility and an active lifestyle that far outpaces any of America’s previous generations. This aging population will both create and face significant transportation challenges, including a transportation system that lacks many features that would accommodate the level of mobility and safety older Americans desire and expect. Transportation innovations to accommodate the Baby Boom Generation’s need for improved safety and mobility will benefit users of all ages.

For older Americans, as well as the population in general, the ability to travel represents freedom, activity and choice. Older Americans prize their mobility and active lifestyles and want to maintain them as long as possible. For many older people, driving remains the safest, easiest and most convenient means of transportation.

Although overall traffic fatality rates have fallen to record lows in recent years, older drivers still make up a disproportionately high share of those involved in fatal traffic crashes. Roadway safety improvements designed to make it easier for older drivers to navigate traffic are becoming increasingly important, as the largest generation in American history grapples with the effects of aging while trying to maintain a level of mobility that matches its active lifestyle.

This report explores mobility and safety issues for older Americans and presents a set of recommendations for implementing a transportation system that can better serve the safety and mobility needs of older Americans and the population at large.

OLDER DRIVER DEMOGRAPHICS

 As the Baby Boom Generation ages, older Americans form a greater portion of the overall population and a greater share of all licensed drivers. 

  • Americans aged 65 and older account for 13 percent of the total population. This group increased by two percent each year between 2001 and 2009.
  • The number of older Americans will only increase, as Baby Boomers began to turn 65 in 2011. Over the next 15 years, the population of Americans 65 and older is projected to grow by 60 percent.
  • Thirty-four million licensed drivers in the U.S. are 65 or older. Currently, 16 percent of the licensed drivers in the U.S. are 65 or older, up from 14 percent in 2000. Projections show that one in every five drivers will be 65 or older by 2025.
  • Older men drive more than women of the same age, although the gap is narrowing. While 89 percent of men 65 and older continue to drive, only 73 percent of women in the same age group drive.  Because they outnumber men, there are more 65 and older female drivers than men.
  • Older Americans tend to “age in place”, remaining in the homes where they raised their children and held jobs. Seventy-nine percent of elderly Americans live in suburban (56 percent) or rural (23 percent) communities.
  • The states with the highest percentage of drivers 65 and older are Connecticut, West Virginia, Florida, Pennsylvania, South Dakota,  Arkansas, Alabama, Oklahoma,  Maine and New York.

  

  • The ten states with the greatest total number of licensed drivers age 65 and older are California, Florida, Texas, New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Illinois, Michigan, North Carolina and New Jersey.

OLDER DRIVER MOBILITY AND QUALITY OF LIFE

Older Americans are more mobile and active than ever and want to maintain that lifestyle for as long as possible. Private vehicles remain the overwhelming transportation mode of choice for older Americans.

  • Because of good nutrition, improved health care, better education and higher incomes, new generations of older Americans will be more mobile, healthy and active for a longer portion of their lives than those just a few decades ago.
  • Older drivers make a greater proportion of shopping trips, more family and personal errands, and more trips for social and recreational activities than younger adults.
  • Travel by older drivers (those 65 and up) now accounts for eight percent of all miles traveled in the U.S.
  • For those 65 and over, 90 percent of travel takes place in a private vehicle. And, for Americans 85 and older, 80 percent of travel occurs in a private vehicle.
  • Travel by private vehicle is the dominant mode of transportation among older Americans, often because it is safe and convenient and they may be physically unable to use other modes such as transit, walking or cycling.
  • Many older people self-regulate their driving as they age, traveling only on familiar routes during daylight hours, avoiding left turns and sticking to less complex roads with lower traffic volumes during non-peak travel times.
  • Older drivers are disproportionately affected by mounting levels of congestion. Because they tend to limit their driving to non-peak hours (typically 9:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m.), their window of opportunity for travel narrows considerably as morning and evening rush hours become longer and midday congestion continues to grow.

TRANSIT AND DRIVING ALTERNATIVES FOR OLDER AMERICANS

While the overwhelming majority of trips by older people take place in private vehicles, public transit options can be improved to allow for wider usage by older Americans.

  • Although transit use by older Americans has increased in recent years, according to the National Household Travel Survey, public transit accounts for just 1.3 percent of trips by older Americans.
  • Only 14 percent of older Americans living in rural areas report having transit service available within a half-mile of their homes.
  • For some older people, the same health conditions and functional impairments that cause them to stop or curtail driving will also limit their ability to use other forms of transportation including walking, cycling and public transportation.
  • Transit systems can be improved to better accommodate older Americans as well as the population at large. These improvements include expanded bus routes; transit vehicles, stops or facilities that better accommodate older or physically challenged passengers; and additional non-traditional and private sector approaches to transit, including formal and informal ridesharing and taxi services.

ASSESSMENTS AND GUIDELINES FOR OLDER DRIVERS

Although many older motorists tend to self-regulate and monitor their own driving and abilities, many states require more stringent testing and license renewal policies for older drivers. A variety of organizations offer classes and independent evaluations for older drivers to sharpen their skills and determine the range of their driving abilities.

  • Older motorists can sharpen their skills behind the wheel and monitor their driving abilities as they age through a variety of classes and independent evaluations. AAA and AARP are just two organizations that offer courses in driver safety and self-assessments geared toward helping older motorists determine the range of their driving abilities.
  • Research shows that people whose driving has been limited by age-related issues experience a significant decline in quality of life and their restricted mobility adversely impacts the individual, their family, the community and the society in which they live.
  • Several organizations promote the need for older drivers to update their skills and offer evaluations and refresher courses for older drivers who want to determine whether they should limit or stop driving. The following sites offer assessment and safety tips for older drivers and their loved ones: Ten Signs it’s Time to Limit Your Driving (AARP), Senior Driving Safety Tips and the Silver Century Road Skills Report.
  • Before they ultimately give up driving, many older motorists gradually ramp down their personal travel. So, while they still may be licensed, the oldest drivers tend to make much less frequent trips in their vehicles.
  • Many states require more stringent and frequent testing and license renewal policies for older drivers. These can include shortened periods between renewals, in-person renewal after a certain age and vision and road tests that are not routinely required of younger drivers. Additional licensing requirements for older drivers exist in 28 states and the District of Columbia.
  • Some research suggests that age-based mandatory assessment programs may not effectively identify and manage the small portion of older motorists whose driving should be limited or stopped. And they may prematurely curtail the mobility of drivers who were already self-regulating and managing their driving.

ROADWAY HAZARDS FOR OLDER DRIVERS

Certain situations and driving environments can be especially challenging or hazardous for older motorists.

  • The effects of injuries sustained in traffic crashes tend to be more severe in older drivers because of physical frailty and existing medical issues.
  • As people age, their eyesight, reaction time, cognitive ability and muscle dexterity may deteriorate, often making the tasks associated with driving more difficult.
  • According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), in 2010, 37 percent of all fatal crashes where at least one driver was aged 65 or older occurred at an intersection or were related to an intersection. For fatal crashes where no driver was aged 65 or older, 20 percent were at an intersection or intersection related.
  • Left hand turns are more problematic for older drivers, as they must make speed, distance and gap judgments simultaneously to enter or cross the through roadway 
  • According to a 2002 study by University of Kentucky researchers, each advancing year of age after 65 increases by eight percent the odds of getting into a crash that involves turning left.
  • Deteriorated vision among older drivers may make small or complex road signage difficult to process. Signs may be misunderstood or not seen quickly enough to caution older drivers about upcoming exits, obstacles or changes in traffic patterns.

FATALITY AND CRASH RATES AMONG OLDER DRIVERS

In 2010, there were 5,750 fatalities in crashes involving at least one driver age 65 or over. Although overall fatality rates have decreased in recent years, the number of older drivers killed or involved in fatal crashes remains disproportionately high.

  • Although drivers 65 and older account for eight percent of all miles driven in the nation, 17 percent of all traffic fatalities occurred in crashes where at least one driver was age 65 or older.
  • Florida leads the nation in the number of traffic fatalities involving a driver age 65 or older in 2010.  The other states in the top ten for fatalities and fatal crashes involving a driver 65 or older are Texas, California, Pennsylvania, North Carolina, Georgia, New York, Ohio, Michigan and Tennessee. Information for all 50 states can be found in the Appendix.

  • Florida also leads the nation in the number of drivers age 65 or older killed in a traffic crash (2010). Other states in the top ten for the number of drivers 65 or older killed in traffic crashes are Texas, California, North Carolina, Georgia, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Tennessee, New York and Michigan.  Information for all 50 states can be found in the Appendix.

 

  • Vermont leads the nation in the share of traffic fatalities in crashes involving a driver 65 or older. The next nine states with the highest share of overall traffic fatalities occurring in crashes involving a driver 65 or older are Nevada, Kansas, Maine, West Virginia, New Jersey, Wisconsin, Montana, Oregon and Nebraska. Information for all 50 states can be found in the Appendix.

 

EFFORTS TO ACCOMMODATE OLDER AMERICANS

State transportation departments are becoming increasingly active in addressing the need to maintain the mobility of older Americans through a combination of improvements to driving and pedestrian facilities, enhanced public education, and an emphasis on partnering with other organizations on a broader approach to maintaining and improving the mobility of older people.

  • Several states, including Florida, Tennessee and Pennsylvania, have formed task forces that include numerous state organizations with an interest in the quality of life of older people. These coalitions work together to create and provide oversight to programs aimed at bringing a holistic approach to maintaining mobility and safety for older people.
  • Since the early 1990s, the Florida Department of Transportation has emphasized the need to enhance its surface transportation system to better accommodate older people.  These improvements have included the widening of roadway striping from four to six inches, the use of advanced street name and guide signs with larger lettering, larger stop and yield signs, and the use of countdown pedestrian signs.

RECOMMENDATIONS FOR IMPROVING MOBILITY AND SAFETY FOR OLDER AMERICANS

The following set of recommendations can improve the mobility and safety of older Americans. These improvements will also improve mobility and safety for all motorists.

SAFER ROADS:

  • Clearer, brighter and simpler signage with larger lettering, including overhead indicators for turning lanes and overhead street signs. This should include minimum levels of retroreflectivity.
  • Brighter street lighting, particularly at intersections, and bright, retroreflective pavement markings. Studies also show that increasing the width of pavement markings from 4 inches to 6 inches helps with decreasing lane departure and crashes, especially with older drivers.
  • Where appropriate, widening or adding left-turn lanes and increasing the length of merge or exit lanes.
  • Where appropriate, widening lanes and shoulders to reduce the consequence of driving mistakes.
  • Adding rumble strips to warn motorists when they are leaving the roadway.
  • Making roadway curves more gradual and easier to navigate.
  • Where appropriate, design and operate roads to accommodate all users of the roadway.
  • Adding countdown pedestrian signals.
  • Adding refuge islands for pedestrians at intersections.
  • States should also utilize the Federal Highway Administration’s “Highway Design Handbook for Older Drivers and Pedestrians” for examples of cost-effective safety infrastructure upgrades.

SAFER ROAD USERS

  • Promotion of education and training programs for older drivers.
  • Evaluation and monitoring of “at-risk” older motorists through appropriate licensing requirements.

SAFER VEHICLES:

  • Improving crashworthiness of vehicles to better protect occupants and withstand impacts.
  • Raising awareness among older drivers of appropriate safety precautions and seat belt use.
  • Development of Intelligent Transportation System (ITS) technologies, including crash avoidance technologies.

IMPROVED TRANSPORTATION OPTIONS

  • Ensuring public transit vehicles, facilities and stops are easily accessible and accommodating to elderly or disabled passengers.
  • Expanding bus and transit routes.
  • Implementing non-traditional and public sector approaches that are tailored to the needs of older adults, including ride sharing, volunteer driving programs, door-to-door community transportation services, taxi services and vehicle donation.

All data used in this report is the most current available.  Sources of information for this report include:  The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), the National Household Travel Survey, The Brookings Institution, Monash University, The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, AARP Public Policy Institute; the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety and the U.S. Census Bureau.