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

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 3,103 75 652 16 153 4 207 5 4,115

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 4,786 40 8,442 48 2,298 61
   Passengers 2,600 22 2,471 14 569 15
Deaths of other passenger vehicle occupants 2,225 19 2,578 15 393 10
Motorcyclists, bicyclists and pedestrians 2,271 19 4,108 23 529 14
Total* 11,940 100 17,693 100 3,804 100

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 33,335,838 740 2.2 31,900,730 581 1.8 65,236,568 1,321 2.0
16-19 8,724,267 1,415 16.2 8,287,252 725 8.7 17,011,519 2,142 12.6
20-24 11,678,965 3,062 26.2 11,116,473 1,068 9.6 22,795,438 4,131 18.1
25-29 10,959,879 2,380 21.7 10,620,319 817 7.7 21,580,198 3,198 14.8
30-34 10,681,612 1,926 18.0 10,582,777 614 5.8 21,264,389 2,540 11.9
35-39 9,785,269 1,556 15.9 9,818,501 573 5.8 19,603,770 2,129 10.9
40-44 10,359,992 1,663 16.1 10,488,928 582 5.5 20,848,920 2,246 10.8
45-49 10,498,118 1,769 16.9 10,710,188 636 5.9 21,208,306 2,405 11.3
50-54 11,070,966 1,868 16.9 11,488,260 674 5.9 22,559,226 2,543 11.3
55-59 10,282,382 1,812 17.6 10,912,048 633 5.8 21,194,430 2,445 11.5
60-64 8,674,373 1,339 15.4 9,447,628 551 5.8 18,122,001 1,890 10.4
65-69 6,913,190 1,085 15.7 7,695,527 471 6.1 14,608,717 1,556 10.7
70-74 4,884,452 765 15.7 5,723,597 419 7.3 10,608,049 1,184 11.2
75-79 3,390,347 632 18.6 4,287,534 407 9.5 7,677,881 1,040 13.5
80-84 2,370,170 542 22.9 3,398,468 411 12.1 5,768,638 953 16.5
≥85 2,041,782 532 26.1 3,999,007 406 10.2 6,040,789 938 15.5

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%
16-19 543 21 830 32 104 4 1,091 42 2,568 100
20-24 890 18 1,690 34 255 5 2,147 43 4,982 100
25-29 714 18 1,432 37 213 6 1,507 39 3,866 100
30-34 600 18 1,288 39 166 5 1,212 37 3,266 100
35-39 526 19 1,101 40 137 5 963 35 2,727 100
40-44 524 20 1,124 42 124 5 876 33 2,648 100
45-49 529 20 1,075 42 147 6 836 32 2,587 100
50-54 531 21 1,058 41 138 5 839 33 2,566 100
55-59 489 21 945 40 137 6 766 33 2,337 100
60-64 440 23 779 41 90 5 591 31 1,900 100
65-69 379 24 630 41 85 5 454 29 1,548 100
70-74 329 27 484 40 68 6 333 27 1,214 100
75-79 277 30 351 39 39 4 243 27 910 100
80-84 298 36 267 32 43 5 230 27 838 100
≥85 299 45 201 30 32 5 138 21 670 100

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 26,933,664 126 0.5 25,790,056 81 0.3 52,723,720 207 0.4
13-15 6,402,174 32 0.5 6,110,674 28 0.5 12,512,848 60 0.5
16-19 8,724,267 117 1.3 8,287,252 60 0.7 17,011,519 177 1.0
20-24 11,678,965 265 2.3 11,116,473 112 1.0 22,795,438 377 1.7
25-29 10,959,879 253 2.3 10,620,319 96 0.9 21,580,198 350 1.6
30-34 10,681,612 238 2.2 10,582,777 91 0.9 21,264,389 329 1.5
35-39 9,785,269 210 2.1 9,818,501 75 0.8 19,603,770 285 1.5
40-44 10,359,992 245 2.4 10,488,928 105 1.0 20,848,920 351 1.7
45-49 10,498,118 312 3.0 10,710,188 110 1.0 21,208,306 422 2.0
50-54 11,070,966 336 3.0 11,488,260 134 1.2 22,559,226 471 2.1
55-59 10,282,382 312 3.0 10,912,048 128 1.2 21,194,430 440 2.1
60-64 8,674,373 233 2.7 9,447,628 103 1.1 18,122,001 336 1.9
65-69 6,913,190 164 2.4 7,695,527 80 1.0 14,608,717 244 1.7
70-74 4,884,452 112 2.3 5,723,597 71 1.2 10,608,049 183 1.7
75-79 3,390,347 109 3.2 4,287,534 76 1.8 7,677,881 185 2.4
80-84 2,370,170 77 3.2 3,398,468 66 1.9 5,768,638 143 2.5
≥85 2,041,782 82 4.0 3,999,007 59 1.5 6,040,789 141 2.3

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 11,494 4,642 40
60-69 years 1,704 297 17
≥70 years 2,298 153 7

References