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New FHWA data shows an aging driving population

Data released by the FHWA reveals that older drivers remain one of fastest growing demographics, with nearly 20% of drivers in the USA over 65 years old, confirming estimates in the US Department of Transportation’s Beyond Traffic report.

The USDOT’s Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) published preliminary data showing that there are more drivers than ever before – an estimated 217.9 million – and that 42.8 million, or nearly one in five, are over 65 years old. This age group is still one of the fastest-growing demographic groups among US drivers; the 2% increase represents 4.4 million more drivers over 65 than in the previous year, and is the biggest single-year percent increase on record for that particular population. These new figures support US Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx’s Beyond Traffic report, a 30-year vision for transportation, which predicts a 77% increase among drivers over the age of 65 by 2045.

The data collected from all 50 states and Washington DC show there were 217.9 million licensed drivers in 2015. Drivers who are 80 or older increased by 1.1% since 2014.

At 110.4 million, female drivers outnumbered the 107.6 million male drivers last year, continuing a trend that began in 2005.

The number of teenage drivers increased slightly for the first time in two years, rising to 8.73 million from 8.5 million in 2014, but continuing to remain at a near-record low. For comparison, there were nearly 10 million teenage drivers in 2008. The data also shows that there are 56 million Millennial drivers between the ages of 20-34, who represented nearly one in four US drivers last year; up from the 54.9 million reported in 2014.

The final data will be published later this year in FHWA’s Highway Statistics, an annual compilation of information about drivers, vehicles and roads. The data reflects the growing demands on the US highway system and informs decisions by transportation policymakers, researchers and academia. FHWA researchers continue to develop and improve safety enhancements for the country’s roads to address the challenges facing older drivers, ranging from declining vision and decreased flexibility and psychomotor performance to changes in perceptual and cognitive performance. Some innovations include longer merge lanes, roundabouts, better lighting, more visible signage, and other intersection improvements.

Aware of this rapidly growing segment of the USA’s population, in 2014, the FHWA released the Handbook for Designing Roadways for the Aging Population, which provides practitioners with a practical information source that links aging road user performance to highway design, operational and traffic engineering features. The publication supplements existing standards and guidelines in the areas of highway geometry, operations and traffic control devices, and offers substantial information on the methods and techniques used to accommodate this growing driver demographic.

October 21, 2016

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