Examination of population-based driver licensing and motor vehicle crash rates among older adults

Driving promotes older adults’ independence and mobility and improves overall quality of life. However, due to age-related changes and increased chronic conditions, older drivers (i.e., aged > 65) may be at elevated risk of motor vehicle crashes—the second leading cause of unintentional injury death among this population. Currently, little is known about licensing rates among older adults, and the few previous population-based studies of crashes have had substantial methodological limitations. Linking motor vehicle crash data to other existing administrative data sources—including data on driver licensing and hospitalization—has the potential to catalyze advancements in our understanding of older driver crashes. The long-term goal of this research program is to directly inform the development of prevention efforts, effective assessments, and medical treatments for older drivers that aim to strike the important balance between mobility and safety and ultimately reduce the burden of older driver crashes. The overall objective of the current project is to harness the power of a statewide linked data warehouse to conduct research that substantially enhances our understanding of older adult rates of licensing, crashes, and citations (as a proxy for risky driving). Since 2011, we have been developing the New Jersey Traffic Safety Outcomes (NJ-TSO) data warehouse. This unique warehouse includes linked data for 2004 through 2014 from the following statewide sources: (1) driver licensing data, including exact periods of unlicensure/suspension (n≈10 million); (2) crash report data for all drivers in police-reported crashes in NJ (n≈6 million); (3) traffic citation data for all citations issued to NJ drivers; and (4) Census data. The NJ-TSO provides rich individual-level longitudinal data on licensure rates, driving patterns, and adverse driving events for drivers across the age lifespan. To accomplish our overall objective, we will conduct initial analyses to estimate statewide rates of driver licensing and per-driver crash and citation risk among older adults. We will depict both how licensure, crashes, and traffic citation rates have changed over the 11-year study period and how they change as older adults age. These initial analyses will uniquely contribute to the existing literature on older adults’ driving outcomes, as this will be the first longitudinal study on this topic. In addition, study findings will serve as preliminary data for a subsequent program of research that will integrate statewide hospital discharge and death certificate databases in order to fully investigate the primary contributors to and injuries resulting from older driver crashes.
Funded By: 
Award Dates: 
July 1, 2017 - March 30, 2018