Older people | 2012

In 2010, motor vehicle crashes accounted for less than 1 percent of fatalities among people 70 and older. National Center for Injury Prevention and Control. 2013. Web-based Injury Statistics Query and Reporting System (WISQARS), 2010 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 4,079 people ages 70 and older died in motor vehicle crashes in 2012. This is 31 percent fewer than in 1997, when deaths peaked, but an 8 percent increase since 1975. Deaths of older people changed little from 2011 to 2012. The rate of fatalities per capita among older people has decreased 46 percent since 1975 and is now at its lowest level.

Motor vehicle crash deaths per 100,000 people 70 years and older, 1975-2012
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 4,079 14.0

Seventy-five percent of people 70 and older killed in motor vehicle crashes in 2012 were passenger vehicle occupants, and 17 percent were pedestrians.  Since 1997, deaths of older passenger vehicle occupants have declined 36 percent, while deaths of older pedestrians have declined 25 percent. Although few older adults are killed while riding motorcycles, this number has risen. More than 6 times as many motorcyclists 70 years and older were killed in 2012 than in 1997.

Motor vehicle crash deaths among people 70 and older, 1975-2012
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 3,055 75 699 17 131 3 194 5 4,079

In 2012, 59 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-six 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, 41 percent of the deaths were the drivers younger than 30, 22 percent were their passengers, and 37 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, 2012
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 5,112 41 8,471 47 2,249 59
   Passengers 2,704 22 2,568 14 569 15
Deaths of other passenger vehicle occupants 2,271 18 2,736 15 376 10
Motorcyclists, bicyclists and pedestrians 2,349 19 4,149 23 590 16
Total* 12,505 100 18,038 100 3,805 100

Population and mileage rates

In 2012, motor vehicle crash death rates per capita increased among males and females at ages 70-74. Across all age groups, males had substantially higher death rates than females.

Motor vehicle crash deaths per 100,000 people by age and gender, 2012
AgeMaleFemaleTotal
PopulationDeathsRatePopulationDeathsRatePopulationDeaths*Rate
<16 33,360,902 772 2.3 31,927,210 591 1.9 65,288,112 1,363 2.1
16-19 8,844,501 1,613 18.2 8,372,187 796 9.5 17,216,688 2,412 14.0
20-24 11,549,456 3,183 27.6 11,033,747 1,063 9.6 22,583,203 4,248 18.8
25-29 10,844,886 2,461 22.7 10,553,440 804 7.6 21,398,326 3,265 15.3
30-34 10,493,906 1,973 18.8 10,417,089 662 6.4 20,910,995 2,637 12.6
35-39 9,714,613 1,651 17.0 9,773,586 553 5.7 19,488,199 2,205 11.3
40-44 10,458,994 1,692 16.2 10,569,227 636 6.0 21,028,221 2,329 11.1
45-49 10,726,625 1,831 17.1 10,962,854 616 5.6 21,689,479 2,447 11.3
50-54 11,080,245 1,996 18.0 11,499,014 741 6.4 22,579,259 2,737 12.1
55-59 10,068,409 1,736 17.2 10,704,108 629 5.9 20,772,517 2,366 11.4
60-64 8,534,485 1,407 16.5 9,279,200 524 5.6 17,813,685 1,931 10.8
65-69 6,606,856 1,032 15.6 7,370,497 449 6.1 13,977,353 1,481 10.6
70-74 4,596,006 772 16.8 5,412,033 438 8.1 10,008,039 1,211 12.1
75-79 3,291,452 603 18.3 4,198,131 375 8.9 7,489,583 979 13.1
80-84 2,356,698 542 23.0 3,426,353 406 11.8 5,783,051 948 16.4
≥85 1,964,033 502 25.6 3,923,297 439 11.2 5,887,330 941 16.0

In 2008, the rate of passenger vehicle driver fatal crash involvements per 100 million miles traveled began to increase noticeably at age 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 2012, the proportion in multiple-vehicle crashes at intersections increased steadily starting at ages 60-64. Multiple-vehicle crashes at intersections accounted for 35 percent of fatal crash involvements among drivers 80 and older, compared with 18 percent for drivers ages 20-59.

Passenger vehicle drivers in fatal crashes by age and crash type, 2012
AgeMultiple-vehicle intersection crashesOther multiple-vehicle crashes Single-vehicle intersection crashes Other single-vehicle crashes All crashes*
Number%Number%Number%Number%Number%
16-19 588 20 921 32 122 4 1,266 44 2,897 100
20-24 845 16 1,806 35 269 5 2,202 43 5,122 100
25-29 721 18 1,481 37 230 6 1,568 39 4,000 100
30-34 592 18 1,309 40 174 5 1,204 37 3,279 100
35-39 477 18 1,136 42 137 5 962 35 2,712 100
40-44 537 20 1,104 40 150 6 936 34 2,727 100
45-49 521 20 1,035 39 139 5 945 36 2,640 100
50-54 517 20 1,150 43 149 6 830 31 2,646 100
55-59 454 20 992 43 106 5 747 32 2,299 100
60-64 423 22 764 40 101 5 616 32 1,904 100
65-69 360 25 570 39 83 6 451 31 1,464 100
70-74 340 28 444 37 63 5 356 30 1,203 100
75-79 283 31 311 34 47 5 262 29 903 100
80-84 283 35 260 32 44 5 221 27 808 100
≥85 246 35 241 34 43 6 172 25 702 100

Pedestrians

The rate of pedestrian deaths per 100,000 people in 2012 was higher for people 75 and older than for people younger than 75. The rate was especially high among males ages 80 and older (4.1 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, 2012
AgeMaleFemaleTotal
PopulationDeathsRatePopulationDeathsRatePopulationDeaths*Rate
<13 27,010,635 120 0.4 25,861,937 86 0.3 52,872,572 206 0.4
13-15 6,350,267 51 0.8 6,065,273 35 0.6 12,415,540 86 0.7
16-19 8,844,501 143 1.6 8,372,187 55 0.7 17,216,688 198 1.2
20-24 11,549,456 298 2.6 11,033,747 124 1.1 22,583,203 422 1.9
25-29 10,844,886 239 2.2 10,553,440 96 0.9 21,398,326 335 1.6
30-34 10,493,906 244 2.3 10,417,089 94 0.9 20,910,995 338 1.6
35-39 9,714,613 186 1.9 9,773,586 73 0.7 19,488,199 259 1.3
40-44 10,458,994 228 2.2 10,569,227 93 0.9 21,028,221 321 1.5
45-49 10,726,625 292 2.7 10,962,854 109 1.0 21,689,479 401 1.8
50-54 11,080,245 362 3.3 11,499,014 132 1.1 22,579,259 494 2.2
55-59 10,068,409 285 2.8 10,704,108 120 1.1 20,772,517 405 1.9
60-64 8,534,485 229 2.7 9,279,200 90 1.0 17,813,685 319 1.8
65-69 6,606,856 179 2.7 7,370,497 57 0.8 13,977,353 236 1.7
70-74 4,596,006 121 2.6 5,412,033 81 1.5 10,008,039 203 2.0
75-79 3,291,452 115 3.5 4,198,131 68 1.6 7,489,583 184 2.5
80-84 2,356,698 96 4.1 3,426,353 78 2.3 5,783,051 174 3.0
≥85 1,964,033 79 4.0 3,923,297 59 1.5 5,887,330 138 2.3

Alcohol

Six percent of fatally injured passenger vehicle drivers 70 years and older in 2012 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, 2012
AgeDrivers killedEstimated drivers killed with BACs ≥ 0.08
NumberNumber%
16-59 years 11,908 4,748 40
60-69 years 1,646 282 17
≥70 years 2,249 142 6

References