The older adult population in the United States aged 65 and older is expected to almost double between 2016 and 2060, from 49 million to 95 million. In 2019, there were 7,214 people aged 65 and older killed in traffic crashes in the United States; this accounted for 20.0 percent of all traffic fatalities. To provide context, the overall population aged 65 and older accounted for 16.5 percent of people in the United States and 20.2 percent of all licensed drivers in 2019. California has the largest number of licensed drivers aged 65 and older in the nation with 4,516,813, or 16.6 percent of all licensed drivers in the state. However, as drivers age, physical and mental changes including reduced visual acuity, increased fragility, restricted movement, and cognitive impairment can directly and indirectly result in age-related driving impairments.
Historically, road safety efforts focused on changing human behaviors to prevent crashes. The Safe System approach reframes efforts to save lives by expecting crashes to happen and focusing attention on reducing the severity of injuries when a crash occurs. By understanding the nuances of aging road user crashes, transportation professionals can better address every aspect of crash risks and implement multiple layers of protection to ensure that everyone traveling on California roadways will go safely. Analyses presented in this section include fatal and serious injuries to drivers, passengers, bicyclists, pedestrians, and other non-motor vehicle occupants aged 65 and older.