Older people | 2013

In 2012, motor vehicle crashes accounted for less than 1 percent of fatalities among people 70 and older. National Center for Injury Prevention and Control. 2014. Web-based Injury Statistics Query and Reporting System (WISQARS), 2012 fatal injury data. Atlanta, GA: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Available: http://www.cdc.gov/injury/wisqars/index.html. People ages 70 and older are less likely to be licensed to drive compared with younger people, and drivers 70 and older also drive fewer miles. However, older drivers are keeping their licenses longer and driving more miles than in the past.

Per mile traveled, fatal crash rates increase noticeably starting at age 70-74 and are highest among drivers 85 and older. The increased fatal crash risk among older drivers is largely due to their increased susceptibility to injury, particularly chest injuries, and medical complications, rather than an increased tendency to get into crashes. Li, G.; Braver, E.R.; and Chen, L.H. 2003. Fragility versus excessive crash involvement as determinants of high death rates per vehicle-mile of travel among older drivers. Accident Analysis and Prevention 35:227-35.  

The following facts are based on analysis of data from the U.S. Department of Transportation's Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS).

Trends

A total of 4,115 people ages 70 and older died in motor vehicle crashes in 2013. This is 30 percent fewer than in 1997, when deaths peaked, but a 9 percent increase since 1975. Deaths of older people remained essentially unchanged from 2012 to 2013. The rate of fatalities per capita among older people has decreased 47 percent since 1975 and is now at its lowest level.

Motor vehicle crash deaths per 100,000 people 70 years and older, 1975-2013
YearPopulationDeathsRate
1975 14,563,945 3,775 25.9
1976 14,960,120 3,896 26.0
1977 15,401,249 3,859 25.1
1978 15,876,541 3,824 24.1
1979 16,388,617 3,772 23.0
1980 16,897,977 3,861 22.8
1981 17,322,714 3,871 22.3
1982 17,783,888 3,655 20.6
1983 18,233,751 3,734 20.5
1984 18,662,938 4,052 21.7
1985 19,072,785 4,206 22.1
1986 19,463,480 4,445 22.8
1987 19,890,817 4,555 22.9
1988 20,302,280 4,925 24.3
1989 20,719,397 4,943 23.9
1990 21,164,283 4,844 22.9
1991 21,751,897 4,843 22.3
1992 22,321,217 4,901 22.0
1993 22,800,673 5,221 22.9
1994 23,243,845 5,425 23.3
1995 23,693,757 5,509 23.3
1996 24,056,323 5,578 23.2
1997 24,408,817 5,872 24.1
1998 24,793,551 5,798 23.4
1999 25,092,805 5,657 22.5
2000 25,559,879 5,379 21.0
2001 25,797,467 5,425 21.0
2002 26,005,326 5,332 20.5
2003 26,200,946 5,363 20.5
2004 26,337,518 5,106 19.4
2005 26,658,669 5,047 18.9
2006 26,884,798 4,636 17.2
2007 27,135,517 4,631 17.1
2008 27,521,034 4,291 15.6
2009 27,786,270 3,995 14.4
2010 27,832,721 4,171 15.0
2011 28,520,353 4,071 14.3
2012 29,168,003 4,113 14.1
2013 30,095,357 4,115 13.7
2014 30,917,945 4,192 13.6

Seventy-five percent of people 70 and older killed in motor vehicle crashes in 2013 were passenger vehicle occupants, and 16 percent were pedestrians.  Since 1997, deaths of older passenger vehicle occupants have declined 35 percent, while deaths of older pedestrians have declined 30 percent. Although few older adults are killed while riding motorcycles, this number has risen. More than 7 times as many motorcyclists 70 years and older were killed in 2013 than in 1997.

Motor vehicle crash deaths among people 70 and older, 1975-2013
YearPassenger vehicle occupant deathsPedestrian deaths Motorcyclist deaths Other motor vehicle deaths All motor vehicle deaths
Number%Number%Number%Number%Number
1975 2,302 61 1,348 36 5<1 120 3 3,775
1976 2,490 64 1,291 33 7<1 108 3 3,896
1977 2,370 61 1,383 36 11<1 95 2 3,859
1978 2,515 66 1,214 32 9<1 86 2 3,824
1979 2,391 63 1,277 34 10<1 94 2 3,772
1980 2,399 62 1,344 35 14<1 104 3 3,861
1981 2,495 64 1,278 33 11<1 87 2 3,871
1982 2,430 66 1,124 31 9<1 92 3 3,655
1983 2,547 68 1,081 29 13<1 93 2 3,734
1984 2,764 68 1,164 29 20<1 104 3 4,052
1985 2,933 70 1,170 28 10<1 93 2 4,206
1986 3,166 71 1,157 26 9<1 113 3 4,445
1987 3,276 72 1,160 25 18<1 101 2 4,555
1988 3,540 72 1,271 26 17<1 97 2 4,925
1989 3,658 74 1,180 24 9<1 96 2 4,943
1990 3,525 73 1,195 25 22<1 102 2 4,844
1991 3,690 76 1,044 22 11<1 98 2 4,843
1992 3,801 78 997 20 13<1 90 2 4,901
1993 4,076 78 1,012 19 17<1 116 2 5,221
1994 4,291 79 1,021 19 15<1 98 2 5,425
1995 4,368 79 1,008 18 11<1 122 2 5,509
1996 4,492 81 951 17 17<1 118 2 5,578
1997 4,748 81 931 16 21<1 172 3 5,872
1998 4,683 81 965 17 18<1 132 2 5,798
1999 4,587 81 885 16 23<1 162 3 5,657
2000 4,406 82 807 15 34 1 132 2 5,379
2001 4,389 81 878 16 36 1 122 2 5,425
2002 4,287 80 845 16 36 1 164 3 5,332
2003 4,377 82 777 14 48 1 161 3 5,363
2004 4,113 81 763 15 41 1 189 4 5,106
2005 4,016 80 777 15 68 1 186 4 5,047
2006 3,681 79 707 15 62 1 186 4 4,636
2007 3,661 79 726 16 72 2 172 4 4,631
2008 3,401 79 603 14 108 3 179 4 4,291
2009 3,194 80 578 14 80 2 143 4 3,995
2010 3,246 78 628 15 121 3 176 4 4,171
2011 3,109 76 637 16 120 3 205 5 4,071
2012 3,081 75 707 17 131 3 194 5 4,113
2013 3,123 75 666 16 152 4 209 5 4,150
2014 3,128 75 726 17 123 3 215 5 4,192

In 2013, 61 percent of the deaths in crashes involving passenger vehicle drivers 70 and older were the older driver themselves, and 15 percent were their passengers. Twenty-four percent of deaths were occupants of other vehicles or motorcyclists, bicyclists or pedestrians. In contrast, in crashes involving at least one passenger vehicle driver younger than 30, 40 percent of the deaths were the drivers younger than 30, 22 percent were their passengers, and 38 percent were occupants of other vehicles or motorcyclists, bicyclists, or pedestrians.

Deaths in crashes involving passenger vehicle drivers younger than 30, ages 30-69, and 70 and older, by type of road user, 2013
Deaths involving at least one driver younger than 30Deaths involving at least one driver age 30-69Deaths involving at least one driver 70 or older
Number% Number% Number%
Deaths in passenger vehicles with a driver that age
   Drivers 4,819 41 8,318 47 2,331 60
   Passengers 2,521 21 2,491 14 522 13
Deaths of other passenger vehicle occupants 2,238 19 2,775 16 437 11
Motorcyclists, bicyclists and pedestrians 2,273 19 4,187 24 579 15
Total* 11,917 100 17,876 100 3,885 100

Population and mileage rates

In 2013, motor vehicle crash death rates per capita increased among males at ages 75-79. Among females, motor vehicle crash death rates per capita increased at ages 70-74 and then declined after peaking at ages 80-84. Males had substantially higher death rates than females across all age groups.

Motor vehicle crash deaths per 100,000 people by age and gender, 2013
AgeMaleFemaleTotal
PopulationDeathsRatePopulationDeathsRatePopulationDeaths*Rate
<16 33,313,800 711 2.1 31,917,878 541 1.7 65,231,678 1,252 1.9
16-19 8,655,599 1,556 18.0 8,248,325 687 8.3 16,903,924 2,243 13.3
20-24 11,739,427 3,004 25.6 11,172,747 1,042 9.3 22,912,174 4,047 17.7
25-29 11,161,389 2,455 22.0 10,826,549 794 7.3 21,987,938 3,250 14.8
30-34 10,808,825 1,948 18.0 10,719,741 619 5.8 21,528,566 2,567 11.9
35-39 9,939,836 1,592 16.0 9,981,814 563 5.6 19,921,650 2,155 10.8
40-44 10,219,393 1,512 14.8 10,372,090 554 5.3 20,591,483 2,067 10.0
45-49 10,347,463 1,633 15.8 10,540,579 563 5.3 20,888,042 2,196 10.5
50-54 11,077,581 2,003 18.1 11,493,228 709 6.2 22,570,809 2,712 12.0
55-59 10,443,988 1,789 17.1 11,067,461 625 5.6 21,511,449 2,414 11.2
60-64 8,877,894 1,422 16.0 9,688,238 554 5.7 18,566,132 1,976 10.6
65-69 7,249,106 1,019 14.1 8,076,160 498 6.2 15,325,266 1,517 9.9
70-74 5,099,939 794 15.6 5,973,085 434 7.3 11,073,024 1,228 11.1
75-79 3,511,566 663 18.9 4,410,758 444 10.1 7,922,324 1,107 14.0
80-84 2,381,812 521 21.9 3,378,554 351 10.4 5,760,366 872 15.1
≥85 2,108,869 540 25.6 4,053,362 444 11.0 6,162,231 985 16.0

In 2008, the rate of passenger vehicle driver fatal crash involvements per 100 million miles traveled began to increase noticeably at ages 70-74. Drivers 85 and older had the highest rate of fatal crash involvement. Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. 2013. [Unpublished analysis of 2008 data from the U.S. Department of Transportation's Fatality Analysis Reporting System and the National Household Travel Survey]. Arlington, VA.

Passenger vehicle fatal crash involvements per 100 million miles traveled by driver age, 2008
AgeCrash involvementsMilesRate
16-19 4,040 87,827,113,152 4.6
20-24 5,758 150,169,083,027 3.8
25-29 4,467 125,785,167,292 3.6
30-34 3,389 187,437,561,189 1.8
35-39 3,255 257,638,960,689 1.3
40-44 3,180 331,007,230,699 1.0
45-49 3,094 228,855,849,762 1.4
50-54 2,740 231,251,749,983 1.2
55-59 2,287 208,672,980,163 1.1
60-64 1,889 163,360,796,073 1.2
65-69 1,322 97,438,632,690 1.4
70-74 1,167 55,293,327,384 2.1
75-79 1,050 39,017,246,582 2.7
80-84 837 19,901,904,422 4.2
≥85 677 7,705,924,745 8.8
Total* 39,543 2,195,141,011,613 1.8

Crash types

Among passenger vehicle drivers involved in fatal crashes in 2013, the proportion in multiple-vehicle crashes at intersections increased steadily starting at ages 60-64. Multiple-vehicle crashes at intersections accounted for 40 percent of fatal crash involvements among drivers 80 and older, compared with 19 percent for drivers ages 16-59.

Passenger vehicle drivers in fatal crashes by age and crash type, 2013
AgeMultiple-vehicle intersection crashesOther multiple-vehicle crashes Single-vehicle intersection crashes Other single-vehicle crashes All crashes*
Number%Number%Number%Number%Number%
16-19 531 20 873 33 122 5 1,088 42 2,614 100
20-24 855 18 1,727 36 248 5 2,014 42 4,844 100
25-29 719 18 1,584 40 225 6 1,482 37 4,010 100
30-34 636 19 1,336 40 176 5 1,171 35 3,319 100
35-39 509 19 1,097 41 158 6 939 35 2,703 100
40-44 526 21 1,054 42 129 5 822 32 2,531 100
45-49 470 19 1,060 43 141 6 811 33 2,482 100
50-54 539 20 1,090 41 129 5 881 33 2,639 100
55-59 504 21 975 41 129 5 788 33 2,396 100
60-64 427 22 753 39 106 6 636 33 1,922 100
65-69 349 23 650 42 68 4 478 31 1,545 100
70-74 319 27 445 37 56 5 378 32 1,198 100
75-79 326 32 365 36 36 4 284 28 1,011 100
80-84 273 35 272 35 40 5 193 25 778 100
≥85 289 40 250 34 42 6 145 20 726 100

Pedestrians

The rate of pedestrian deaths per 100,000 people in 2013 was higher for people 75 and older than for people younger than 75. The rate was especially high among males ages 85 and older (4 deaths per 100,000 people). For all age groups the rate of pedestrian deaths per capita was higher for males than females.

Pedestrian deaths per 100,000 people by age and gender, 2013
AgeMaleFemaleTotal
PopulationDeathsRatePopulationDeathsRatePopulationDeaths*Rate
<13 26,892,961 101 0.4 25,773,168 66 0.3 52,666,129 167 0.3
13-15 6,420,839 38 0.6 6,144,710 28 0.5 12,565,549 66 0.5
16-19 8,655,599 145 1.7 8,248,325 55 0.7 16,903,924 200 1.2
20-24 11,739,427 289 2.5 11,172,747 116 1.0 22,912,174 405 1.8
25-29 11,161,389 251 2.2 10,826,549 89 0.8 21,987,938 340 1.5
30-34 10,808,825 267 2.5 10,719,741 91 0.8 21,528,566 358 1.7
35-39 9,939,836 207 2.1 9,981,814 90 0.9 19,921,650 297 1.5
40-44 10,219,393 250 2.4 10,372,090 79 0.8 20,591,483 329 1.6
45-49 10,347,463 253 2.4 10,540,579 107 1.0 20,888,042 360 1.7
50-54 11,077,581 352 3.2 11,493,228 129 1.1 22,570,809 481 2.1
55-59 10,443,988 333 3.2 11,067,461 128 1.2 21,511,449 461 2.1
60-64 8,877,894 264 3.0 9,688,238 126 1.3 18,566,132 390 2.1
65-69 7,249,106 159 2.2 8,076,160 94 1.2 15,325,266 253 1.7
70-74 5,099,939 153 3.0 5,973,085 73 1.2 11,073,024 226 2.0
75-79 3,511,566 122 3.5 4,410,758 75 1.7 7,922,324 197 2.5
80-84 2,381,812 85 3.6 3,378,554 47 1.4 5,760,366 132 2.3
≥85 2,108,869 108 5.1 4,053,362 62 1.5 6,162,231 171 2.8

Alcohol

Seven percent of fatally injured passenger vehicle drivers 70 years and older in 2013 had blood alcohol concentrations (BACs) at or above 0.08 percent, compared with 17 percent for drivers ages 60-69 and 40 percent for drivers ages 16-59.

Fatally injured passenger vehicle drivers with BAC ≥ 0.08 percent by age, 2013
AgeDrivers killedEstimated drivers killed with BACs ≥ 0.08
NumberNumber%
16-59 years 11,419 4,391 38
60-69 years 1,686 338 20
≥70 years 2,331 177 8

References