Background: Although there is an ever increasing literature on older drivers, there is no comprehensive up-to-date presentation of how older drivers are impacted by traffic safety, and how they impact the road safety of others.
Methods: This paper uses 1994-1996 US data to determine how many rates related to traffic safety depend on the age and sex of road users (fatalities, fatalities per licensed driver, etc.) Threats drivers pose to other road users are estimated by driver involvement in pedestrian fatality crashes.
Results: It is found that renewing the licence of a 70-year-old male driver for another year poses, on average, 40% less threat to other road users than renewing the license of a 40-year-old male driver. The fatality risks drivers themselves face generally increase as they age, with the increased risk of death in the same severity crash being a major contributor. If this factor is removed, crash risks for 70-year-old male drivers are not materially higher than for 40-year-old male drivers; for female drivers they are.
Conclusions: Most driver rates increase substantially by age 80, in many cases to values higher than those for 20-year-olds. Given that a death occurs, the probability that it is a traffic fatality declines steeply with age, from well over 20% for late teens through mid twenties, to under one per cent at age 65, and under half a per cent at age 80.