Older licensed drivers are the fastest-growing group

WASHINGTON – The U.S. had a record 221.7 million licensed drivers in 2016, and the fastest-growing group of drivers included people 65 and older, according to data published by the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA).

Almost one in five drivers – 41.7 million – were at least 65 years old, and the largest single-year percentage increase in licensed drivers was among those who are between 75 and 79 years old, increasing by 4.98 percent over the previous year.

The data collected from all 50 states and Washington, D.C., also showed 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.

The study said that every state but five – Michigan, Oklahoma, South Dakota, West Virginia and Wyoming – saw increases among licensed drivers in 2016 compared with 2015.

The new data show 57 million drivers between the ages of 20 and 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 remained at among the lowest levels since the federal government began compiling driver’s license data in 1963.

In 2016, America’s 112.1 million licensed women drivers outnumbered their male counterparts by 2.5 million.

FHWA researchers have pioneered numerous safety enhancements – such as cutting-edge retroreflective laminates that 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 policymakers, 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.

The handbook offers substantial information on the methods and techniques used to accommodate this growing driver demographic.

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