NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


April 4, 2006

Think our roads already resemble a survivalist obstacle course? Get ready for 2025, when an estimated 40 million baby boomers will clog the left lanes of America, blinkers flashing, one foot trembling over the brake.

Though motorists older than 70 drive far less frequently than other age groups, they already account for a larger proportion of fatalities, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. The death rate per mile traveled for drivers over 85 is four times that of the 30-59 age group.

Baby boomers will begin turning 65 in 2011, and by 2030, one out of five drivers will be 65 or older -- up from one in eight drivers today, studies predict.

  • A 2002 Florida study found that seniors older than 85 pose a sharply higher risk.
  • The state's Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles found at least 20 percent of the state's 250,000 drivers older than 85 suffered from dementia.
  • The report also said that crash rates for drivers with cognitive dementia were 7.6 times higher than other drivers.
  • But people 65 and older are the fastest-growing demographic in the United States, and, by 2030, a quarter of all licensed drivers will be in that age group.

Boomers are expected to live longer with better health overall than their predecessors, meaning more of them will be confident about driving greater distances and clutching their car keys well into their 90s. That's the fear of some traffic safety experts.

Driving today is more difficult than ever because of more traffic, bigger vehicles and faster speeds. Increasingly, lawmakers are concerned about the future safety of the nation's roadways, as only a few states currently identify which seniors should not be driving.

Source: Debora Vrana, "Too old to drive?", April 3, 2006.

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