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[Study] What Age of Drivers Are Most Likely to Be Involved in Fatal Car Crashes?

Age can be a significant factor in the likelihood of a car crash at both ends of the spectrum.

Younger drivers, particularly teenagers, report the highest rates of distracted driving, a key contributing factor in fatal crashes. Even as overall cell phone use by drivers has decreased significantly since 2005, according to data analyzed by the National Safety Council, surveys found that drivers ages 16 to 24 are more than twice as likely as drivers 25 and up to be visibly manipulating their cell phone while driving.

But older drivers are at an increased risk as well, with reaction times, vision, and situational awareness declining over time. In 2022, there were nearly 7,900 fatal crashes involving drivers 65 and older — their highest point since the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration started collecting fatal crash data in 1975.

In order to better understand the role that the age of drivers can play in car crashes, we worked with 1Point21 Interactive and reviewed records of over 39,000 fatal motor vehicle collisions in 2022 from NHTSA’s Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS) database to identify national and state-level trends based on driver age.


  • The average age of drivers in fatal crashes is between 40 and 50 in every state and the District of Columbia, but there were more 22-year-olds involved in fatal accidents than any other single age.
  • The peak time of day for fatal crashes moves earlier in the day the older the drivers are. Drivers in their teens and 20s get in the most fatal crashes at 9 p.m. and 10 p.m., respectively, while the peak hour for drivers 70 and older is 2 p.m.
  • Drivers in their 20s are more likely than any other age group to get into fatal crashes while under the influence of alcohol.

Which states have the most fatal crashes involving young or old drivers?

Across the United States, the median age of a driver involved in a fatal crash in 2022 was 40, with a slightly higher average of 43.1 because there is no upper limit on legal driving age — drivers as old as 102 got into deadly accidents in 2022.

Looking at both the average and median broken out by state, the difference is roughly a decade. Hawaii was the oldest state in both measures, with an average age of 48.9 and a median age of 49.5, while Texas has the youngest population of drivers involved in deadly crashes — an average age 40.7 and median age 37 (tied with Colorado).

New Mexico is on the younger end of the list, with an average age of just over 42 (tied for 8th with Louisiana) and a median age of 39 (in a nine-way tie for #5 behind Colorado, Texas, California, and Utah).

But despite the average ages being between 40 and 50 in every state, the most common age of drivers in fatal crashes is much younger. The 10 most frequently reported ages of drivers in deadly collisions were all 31 or below, with 22 being the most common age nationwide.

The most frequent age was 30 or below in 33 states and the District of Columbia, including five states where the most common age was between 17 and 19. Meanwhile, Hawaii’s high average was driven by the fact that its most common age for drivers in fatal accidents was 65. (These outliers, both high and low, are primarily smaller states with fewer overall fatal crashes.)

How old you are dictates the time of day that you are most likely to be involved in a fatal crash.

Much like the time that you go to bed, the hour when any driver is most likely to get in a deadly car crash starts later at night for young drivers and then moves progressively earlier as you get older.

For drivers in their teens and 20s, the peak times are 9 p.m. and 10 p.m., respectively, which likely reflects that the youngest drivers are sometimes operating under curfews — either government-imposed curfews on drivers with learner’s permits or informal rules set at home.

Drivers in their 20s are also the most likely of any age group to have fatal accidents between midnight and 2 a.m., which links with the fact that they have the largest share of fatal crashes involving alcohol (more on that to come).

Meanwhile, drivers from 30 to 59 get in the largest number of fatal crashes in the 6 p.m. hour, when evening commuting traffic is often at its highest level. And peak fatal crash time for the oldest drivers — those above the age of 70 — is 2 p.m.

Younger drivers in fatal crashes are much more likely to be impaired by alcohol than other age groups.

As mentioned above, one reason that drivers in their 20s tend to get into fatal crashes late at night more often than any other time is that they are the most likely age group to have alcohol in their system when they get into accidents.

Of the drivers whose alcohol use (or non-use) was conclusively determined at the time of their crashes — which made up roughly two-thirds of drivers in the FARS database for 2022 — nearly 30% of drivers between the ages of 20 and 29 had been drinking.

Drivers in their 30s (26%) and 40s (21%) were the next most likely groups to be impaired by alcohol, followed by teens (18%). Older drivers were much less likely to be driving drunk at the time of their fatal crashes; less than 10% of drivers over the age of 60 were found to be impaired.

Data sources and methodology

Data for this analysis comes from the Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS), a database of all U.S. fatal motor vehicle collisions collected by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). NHTSA released finalized crash data for 2022 in April 2024.

We downloaded the newest data and used the table containing information about the people involved in fatal crashes to narrow the dataset down to those identified as drivers of motor vehicles, then used fields for state, age, and sex to identify age-related trends.

Feel free to use data from this analysis elsewhere, but if you do, please link back to this page for attribution purposes and credit Davis Kelin.

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