Everyone faces some hazards behind the wheel of a car, but research shows that driving becomes inherently risky with age. As it turns out, where you live can also have a significant effect on safety for senior motorists. Unsurprisingly, drivers in big cities face different challenges than those in rural areas – but a new Caring.com study suggests that a senior’s risk of being involved in a deadly crash can also vary by state.
Our Safest States for Senior Drivers were selected by comparing the number fatal collision victims aged 65 years or older in a state with that age group’s share of the state population. Sources included the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and the U.S. Census Bureau.
Factors such as weather, population density, and tougher driving laws for older motorists can all impact the rate of seniors killed in car crashes in a given state. Most of the states on this list are free of the icy, snowy winter weather conditions that can lead to deadly crashes. All but two of the following states have stricter rules for senior drivers, and many are among the most sparsely populated states in the U.S.
Connecticut is the 10th-safest state for senior drivers, our report shows. About 17 percent of car-related deaths in the state were among residents 65 or older. That age group accounts for about 15 percent of the population, so the number of auto-related deaths is only slightly higher than projected for seniors in the state.
The state’s law mandating in-person driver’s license renewals starting at age 65 (with an exemption for those who can prove a hardship preventing them from coming to renew in person) may help make for safer roadways.
A popular destination for retirees, you might think that Florida would have a higher-than-average rate of senior driving deaths. Yet, the ratio of car-related fatalities among the state’s 65-and-older residents (19 percent) matched up with that age group’s share of the state population (also 19 percent), earning it a spot on the safest states list.
The Sunshine State requires more frequent renewals and vision tests for drivers once they reach 80 years old, which could have an effect on senior driving safety.
Despite being among the 19 states that do not require stricter rules for older drivers, Wyoming ranks among the safest states for seniors on the road. There was no discrepancy between the rate of drivers 65 and over killed in car accidents and the 65-and-older group’s share of the state population – both were at 14 percent in 2014.
Having one of the sparsest populations in the country likely also affected the number of senior driving deaths in Wyoming.
7. South Carolina
South Carolina is not only one of the best states to grow old in, it’s also one of the safest for seniors on the road, our research shows. While adults 65 and older make up about 16 percent of the state’s population, the same age group accounted for a slightly lower rate of car-related deaths (15 percent) there in 2014.
It probably helps that South Carolina has some of the nation’s strictest laws for older drivers. Starting at age 65, drivers there must renew their license every five years and pass a vision test.
While Mississippi ranked among the worst states to grow old in based on access to healthcare and overall quality of life for seniors, our research suggests that the southern state is one of the safest for older drivers.
People 65 and older accounted for about 13 percent of those killed in car collisions in the state in 2014, while that age cohort makes up about 14 percent of Mississippi’s population. The lower rate of senior fatalities came despite a lack of stricter laws in the state for senior drivers.
A low population density and laws requiring more frequent driver’s license renewals for residents starting at age 75 may have helped make Montana one of the safest states in the nation for senior drivers.
While residents 65 and older make up for 17 percent of the western state’s population, that age group represented 15 percent of auto-related deaths there in 2014.
Drivers in Alaska may have to deal with icy roadways and the occasional errant moose, but our research shows that the state is actually one of the safest for seniors behind the wheel. While residents 65 and older make up 9 percent of the state population, that age group accounted for just 7 percent of auto fatalities statewide in 2014
Like most of the states on this list, Alaska has stricter laws for older drivers – starting at age 69, residents may only renew their driver’s license in person. That the state has the lowest population density in the country was another likely factor in the low rate of senior car-related deaths.
More stringent laws for older drivers and a relatively low rate of senior driving fatalities propelled Louisiana to the top of our list. In 2014, nearly 11 percent of fatal auto accident victims were over 65, while that age group’s share of the state population is about 14 percent.
Motorists in the The Pelican State must renew their driver’s licenses in person starting at age 70, which may have contributed to the lower percentage of fatal collisions among the state’s older drivers.
2. North Dakota
With its sparse population and stricter driving regulations for the elderly, North Dakota is the second-safest state for older drivers.
Of the 135 car accident deaths in the state in 2014, 10 percent were 65 or older, while that demographic comprises 14 percent of the overall state population. Drivers in the state must renew their license every four years beginning at 78 years old, compared to every six years for younger people.
1. New Mexico
New Mexico is the safest state in the nation for older drivers, our calculations show. Of all 50 states, New Mexico had the lowest rate of senior driving fatalities – 6 percent lower than projected based on the senior population there.
While people 65 and older account for more than 15 percent of the state population, that age group made up about 9 percent of driving deaths in 2014. New Mexico also has some of the strictest laws on the books when it comes to elderly drivers – from age 75 on, motorists there are required to renew their driver’s license annually.