Center for Injury Research and Prevention

Older Driver Safety Research

older driver safety

Being able to safely drive as people age is key to maintaining independence. CIRP researchers are partnering with other research organizations to study older driver safety factors that influence mobility over the life span, including how many older adults maintain their driver's licenses and experience crashes and how prescription medication use in older adults affects their crash risk. They are also studying the effect of in-vehicle safety technology on reducing crash involvement and helping to establish practical fitness to drive assessment protocols for clinicians to follow. 

Vehicle Safety Characteristics in Vulnerable Driver Populations

This study, published in Traffic Injury Prevention, highlights important disparities in vehicle safety features among drivers by age and income. The researchers analyzed data from the NJ Safety and Health Outcomes Data Warehouse, which includes all crash and licensing data for the state of NJ from 2010-17 and used NHTSA’s Product Information Catalog and Vehicle Listing platform to decode the VIN of each crash-involved vehicle to obtain model year, presence of electronic stability control (ESC), vehicle type, engine horsepower, and presence of front, side, and curtain airbags. They found that teens, older adults (age 65+), and those from low-income neighborhoods are more likely to be driving vehicles that are less safe, putting them at greater risk of injury and death in the event of a crash.

Read a blog post about the study.

Read a press release about the study.

Read the study abstract.

Principal Investigators: Kristi Busico Metzger, PhD, MPH; Allison E. Curry, PhD, MPH; Funding: Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development

Driver Licensing, Motor Vehicle Crashes, and Moving Violations Among Older Adults

The majority of studies that look at crash rates do not take into account changes in licensing as older adults age, and updated statistics are needed to describe population-based rates of older drivers’ licensing and per-driver rates of crashes and moving violations. A study published in the Journal of Safety Research begins to fill in this research gap. Results show that over a 5-year period (2010-2014) the majority of New Jersey adults (ages 65+) are licensed (86% of males and 71% of females), but there is substantial variation by age and sex. The crash rate for older drivers (ages 65+) was 27% less than middle-aged drivers (ages 35-54) with appreciable differences by sex; but, older drivers had 40% higher fatal crash rates than middle-aged drivers. Moving violation rates among older drivers were 72% lower than middle-aged drivers. Future research is needed to understand the extent to which older adults drive and to identify other factors that influence risk of crash involvement and survivability.

Read a blog post about the research.

Read the abstract.

Principal Investigators: Aimee J. Palumbo, PhD, MPH; Allison E. Curry, PhD, MPH Funding: National Institute on Aging; Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute for Child Health and Development

Older Adult Drivers and Prescription Medication Use

CIRP is partnering with researchers from Brown University School of Public Health to answer a wide array of medication-related questions in regard to older driver safety. Although many believe that prescription medication use in older adults is a leading cause of motor vehicle crashes (MVCs), data are scarce and controversy remains on the effects of medications on older adults and their crash risk. A major barrier to this progress has been the lack of detailed linked data on MVCs, prescription drug use, and age-related medical conditions. To close this gap, the researchers are linking detailed licensing and crash histories from over 2.3 million licensed drivers ages 65 and older to rich clinical and prescription medication data using the New Jersey Safety and Health Outcomes Data Warehouse.

Principal Investigators: Andrew R. Zullo, PharmD, PhD; Allison E. Curry, PhD, MPH; Funding: Brown University Office of the Vice President Research Seed Award