Regulating Older Drivers: Are New Policies Needed?

Regulating Older Drivers: Are New Policies Needed?

Regulating Older Drivers: Are New Policies Needed?

Regulating Older Drivers: Are New Policies Needed?


Are older drivers posing increasing risk to the public? If so, what public policies might mitigate that risk? Older drivers (those 65 and older) are slightly likelier than drivers aged 25 to 64 to cause an accident, but drivers aged 18 to 24 are nearly three times likelier than older drivers to do so. The authors of this paper conclude that stricter licensing policies targeting older drivers would likely not improve traffic safety substantially.


Policymakers, insurers, and the public have long been concerned about the effects of aging on the ability to operate a motor vehicle safely. Under the assumption that older drivers are more dangerous than are younger drivers, many states impose stricter licensing requirements on older drivers. As the proportion of licensed drivers 65 and older continues to increase, states may impose additional licensing requirements on older drivers in an attempt to lessen the threat that older drivers pose to traffic safety.

This paper presents new evidence on the threat that older drivers pose to traffic safety and discusses what this new evidence implies for public policy. It draws on recent RAND research that employs an innovative statistical procedure to estimate the relative risk posed by older drivers, as detailed in the technical report, Estimating the Accident Risk of Older Drivers (Loughran and Seabury, 2007). This paper summarizes the findings and policy implications of that study for policy audiences, including the insurance industry, public agencies, and other organizations concerned about driver safety and the welfare of older Americans. This paper was written with support from the RAND Institute for Civil Justice (ICJ).

The RAND Institute for Civil Justice

The mission of ICJ is to improve private and public decisionmaking on civil legal issues by supplying policymakers and the public with the results of objective, empirically based, analytic research. ICJ facilitates change in the civil justice system by analyzing trends and outcomes, identifying and evaluating policy options, and bringing together representatives of different interests to debate alternative solutions to policy problems. ICJ builds on a long tradition of RAND research characterized by an interdisciplinary, empirical approach to public policy issues and rigorous standards of quality, objectivity, and independence.

ICJ research is supported by pooled grants from corporations, trade and professional associations, and individuals; by government grants and contracts; and by private foundations. ICJ disseminates its work widely to the legal, business, and research communities and to the general public. In accordance with RAND policy, all ICJ research products are subject to peer review before publication. ICJ publications do not necessarily reflect the opinions or policies of the research sponsors or of the ICJ Board of Overseers.

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