Little is known about how state-level driver licensure laws, such as in-person renewal, vision tests, road tests, and the frequency of license renewal relate to the older driver traffic fatality rate.Objective
To determine whether state driver's license renewal policies are associated with the fatality rate among elderly drivers.Design, Setting, and Population
Retrospective, longitudinal study conducted January 1990 through December 2000 of all fatal crashes in the contiguous United States identified in the Fatality Analysis Reporting System, which involved either an older (ages 65–74 years, 75–84 years, and ≥85 years) or middle-aged (ages 25–64 years) driver. Two regression approaches were used to study the effect of state laws mandating in-person renewal, vision tests, road tests, and frequency of license renewal on driver fatalities, controlling for state-level factors including the number of licensed elderly drivers, primary and secondary seatbelt laws, maximum speed limit laws, blood alcohol level of 0.08, and administrative license revocation drinking and driving laws, per capita income, and unemployment rate. The first regression approach examined only elderly driver fatalities and the second approach examined daytime elderly driver fatalities and used daytime fatalities among middle-aged drivers as a general control for unobserved variation across states and over time.Main Outcome Measures
Older driver fatalities and older and middle-aged daytime driver fatalities.Results
Among individuals aged 85 years or older, there were a total of 4605 driver fatalities and 4179 daytime driver fatalities during the study period. For this age cohort, after controlling for middle-aged daytime driver deaths, states with in-person license renewal were associated with a lower driver fatality rate (incident rate ratio [RR], 0.83; 95% confidence interval [CI], 0.72–0.96). This was the only policy related to older drivers that was significantly associated with a lower fatality risk across both regression models. Thus, state-mandated vision tests, road tests, more frequent license renewal, and in-person renewal (for individuals aged 65–74 years and 75–84 years) were not found to be independently associated with the fatality rate among older drivers in the 2 models.Conclusions
In-person license renewal was related to a significantly lower fatality rate among the oldest old drivers. More stringent state licensure policies such as vision tests, road tests, and more frequent license renewal cycles were not independently associated with additional benefits.