Your request has been submitted.

Trends in older driver crash involvement rates and survivability in the United States: an update

Cicchino, Jessica B.; McCartt, Anne T.
Accident Analysis and Prevention
November 2014

Objective: Previous research has shown that fatal crash involvement rates per licensed driver aged 70 and older declined significantly more per year in the United States than rates for middle-aged drivers aged 35–54 during 1997–2008, and per vehicle mile traveled from 1995–1996 to 2001–2002. Analyses of police-reported crash data during 1997–2005 indicated that the greater declines for older drivers were due to decreases in crash involvement and in the risk of dying in the crashes that occurred. The current study examined if trends in crash rates, crash involvements, and survivability persisted into more recent years.
Methods: Trends for drivers 70 and older were compared with trends for drivers aged 35–54 for U.S. national fatal passenger vehicle crash involvements per 100,000 licensed drivers during 1997–2012 and for U.S. national fatal passenger vehicle crash involvements per vehicle miles traveled in 1995–1996, 2001–2002, and 2008. Using police-reported crash data during 1997–2008 from 20 U.S. states, trends in involvement rates in non-fatal crashes of various severities per 100,000 licensed drivers and changes in the odds of death and the odds of death or serious injury in a crash were compared between older and middle-aged drivers.
Results: During 2007–2012, declines in national fatal crash involvement rates per licensed driver were similar for drivers 70 and older and middle-aged drivers (18 percent each). However, when considering the entire study period, fatal crash involvement rates continued to reflect a substantially larger decline for drivers 70 and older than for middle-aged drivers (42 vs. 30 percent per licensed driver during 1997–2012, 39 vs. 26 percent per vehicle mile traveled from 1995–2006 to 2008). When analyses of police-reported crash data were extended through 2008, non-fatal injury crash involvement rates per licensed driver declined more for older than for middle-aged drivers (39 vs. 30 percent), and unlike in prior research, average annual declines were significantly larger for drivers 80 and older. Property damage-only crash involvement rates similarly declined significantly more for older than for middle-aged drivers (15 vs. 3 percent). Drivers 70 and older in 1997 were 3.5 times more likely than middle-aged drivers to die in a crash, and this ratio declined to 3.2 by 2008.
Conclusions: Although declines in fatal crash involvement rates in recent years have not differed between older and middle-aged drivers, this did not undo earlier gains for older drivers. The recent slowing in the relative magnitude of the decline for older drivers may be related to the differential effect of the U.S. recession on fatal crash involvements of drivers in these age groups. The decreased likelihood of being involved in a crash of any severity and increased survivability when a crash occurred held when examining data through 2008, and for drivers 80 and older, significant declines in crash involvement relative to middle-aged drivers extended to non-fatal injury crashes.