The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) has published new data showing a record-high 221.7 million licensed drivers in the U.S. in 2016, including 41.7 million – or almost one in five – who are 65 years or older. This age group is growing faster than any other, and is far outpacing their teenage counterparts.
The largest single-year percentage increase in licensed drivers that year was among those who are between 75-79 years old, increasing by 4.98 percent over the previous year. Except for five states – Michigan, Oklahoma, South Dakota, West Virginia and Wyoming – the nation saw increases among licensed drivers in 2016 compared to the previous year.
The new data show 57 million drivers between the ages of 20-34 – generally known as “millennials” – which accounted for nearly one in four U.S. drivers last year, increasing slightly from the 56.1 million reported in 2015.
Teen drivers continued to increase slightly for the third year in a row, rising to 8.8 million – the highest level since 2013, but remaining at among the lowest levels since the federal government began compiling driver license data in 1963.
In 2016, America’s 112.1 million licensed women drivers outnumbered their male counterparts by 2.5 million.
The data collected from all 50 states and Washington, D.C., show that licensed drivers aged 85 or older increased by 161,182 people – or 4.62 percent – since the previous year, making it the nation’s second-fastest growing demographic group in 2016.
FHWA researchers have pioneered numerous safety enhancements – such as cutting-edge retroreflective laminates which make highway signs brighter and more visible from greater distances – to address the needs of older drivers, which range from declining vision to decreased flexibility and psychomotor performance, and changes in perceptual and cognitive performance.
In addition, the agency provides funding support to the Roadway Safety Foundation to operate the “Clearinghouse for Older Road User Safety” which offers information for practitioners and for senior drivers as well.
Published in FHWA's "Highway Statistics," an annual compilation of information about drivers, vehicles and roads, the data reflect the growing demands on the U.S. highway system and informs decisions by transportation policy makers, researchers and academia.
Additional information about how the FHWA designs roads for older drivers can be found in "Handbook for Designing Roadways for the Aging Population," available online at http://safety.fhwa.dot.gov/older_users/handbook, offers substantial information on the methods and techniques used to accommodate this growing driver demographic.