Older people | 2015

In 2014, motor vehicle crashes accounted for less than 1 percent of fatalities among people 70 and older. National Center for Injury Prevention and Control. 2015. Web-based Injury Statistics Query and Reporting System (WISQARS), 2014 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. Cicchino, J.B. 2015. Why have fatality rates among older drivers declined? The relative contributions of changes in survivability and crash involvement. Accident Analysis and Prevention 83:67-73.

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

Posted November 2016.

Trends

A total of 4,366 people ages 70 and older died in motor vehicle crashes in 2015. This is 26 percent fewer than in 1997, when deaths peaked, but a 16 percent increase since 1975. Deaths of older people increased 4 percent from 2014 to 2015. The rate of fatalities per capita among older people has decreased 47 percent since 1975.

Motor vehicle crash deaths per 100,000 people 70 years and older, 1975-2015
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 4,150 13.8
2014 30,917,945 4,206 13.6
2015 31,693,384 4,366 13.8

Seventy-six percent of people 70 and older killed in motor vehicle crashes in 2015 were passenger vehicle occupants, and 16 percent were pedestrians.  Since 1997, deaths of older passenger vehicle occupants have declined 30 percent, and deaths of older pedestrians have declined 25 percent. Although few older adults are killed while riding motorcycles, this number has risen. Nearly 7 times as many motorcyclists 70 years and older were killed in 2015 than in 1997.

Motor vehicle crash deaths among people 70 and older, 1975-2015
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 3,136 75 729 17 124 3 217 5 4,206
2015 3,306 76 698 16 143 3 219 5 4,366

In 2015, 59 percent of the deaths in crashes involving passenger vehicle drivers 70 and older were the older driver themselves, and 14 percent were their passengers. Twenty-seven 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, 39 percent of the deaths were the drivers younger than 30, 20 percent were their passengers, and 40 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, 2015
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 5,099 39 8,972 47 2,402 59
   Passengers 2,591 20 2,777 14 582 14
Deaths of other passenger vehicle occupants 2,633 20 2,904 15 467 11
Motorcyclists, bicyclists and pedestrians 2,625 20 4,557 24 635 16
Total* 13,024 100 19,330 100 4,098 100

Population and mileage rates

In 2015, motor vehicle crash death rates per capita increased among males at ages 75-79 and among females at ages 65-69. Males had substantially higher death rates than females for ages 16 and older.

Motor vehicle crash deaths per 100,000 people by age and gender, 2015
AgeMaleFemaleTotal
PopulationDeathsRatePopulationDeathsRatePopulationDeaths*Rate
<16 33,330,110 770 2.3 31,936,419 557 1.7 65,266,529 1,329 2.0
16-19 8,624,878 1,538 17.8 8,234,283 786 9.5 16,859,161 2,324 13.8
20-24 11,667,854 3,095 26.5 11,071,459 1,109 10.0 22,739,313 4,205 18.5
25-29 11,409,399 2,702 23.7 11,052,155 824 7.5 22,461,554 3,527 15.7
30-34 10,889,739 1,991 18.3 10,785,909 762 7.1 21,675,648 2,754 12.7
35-39 10,173,424 1,789 17.6 10,201,161 625 6.1 20,374,585 2,414 11.8
40-44 10,030,153 1,654 16.5 10,185,045 583 5.7 20,215,198 2,238 11.1
45-49 10,334,929 1,722 16.7 10,518,915 634 6.0 20,853,844 2,356 11.3
50-54 10,963,847 2,119 19.3 11,370,470 780 6.9 22,334,317 2,900 13.0
55-59 10,597,567 1,960 18.5 11,210,375 677 6.0 21,807,942 2,638 12.1
60-64 9,117,180 1,592 17.5 9,952,697 555 5.6 19,069,877 2,149 11.3
65-69 7,596,190 1,252 16.5 8,471,278 546 6.4 16,067,468 1,799 11.2
70-74 5,296,158 867 16.4 6,186,891 449 7.3 11,483,049 1,316 11.5
75-79 3,610,906 655 18.1 4,512,927 414 9.2 8,123,833 1,069 13.2
80-84 2,412,665 537 22.3 3,386,676 378 11.2 5,799,341 916 15.8
≥85 2,174,298 594 27.3 4,112,863 471 11.5 6,287,161 1,065 16.9

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 2015, 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 20 percent for drivers ages 16-59.

Passenger vehicle drivers in fatal crashes by age and crash type, 2015
AgeMultiple-vehicle intersection crashesOther multiple-vehicle crashes Single-vehicle intersection crashes Other single-vehicle crashes All crashes*
Number%Number%Number%Number%Number%
16-19 688 24 954 33 124 4 1,132 39 2,898 100
20-24 959 18 1,879 36 302 6 2,073 40 5,213 100
25-29 786 18 1,728 39 262 6 1,601 37 4,377 100
30-34 692 19 1,583 43 189 5 1,200 33 3,664 100
35-39 619 20 1,324 42 154 5 1,033 33 3,130 100
40-44 551 20 1,186 43 136 5 879 32 2,752 100
45-49 563 21 1,139 43 123 5 812 31 2,637 100
50-54 574 20 1,223 42 174 6 923 32 2,894 100
55-59 535 21 1,123 44 140 5 748 29 2,546 100
60-64 498 24 845 41 98 5 645 31 2,086 100
65-69 425 24 786 44 97 5 494 27 1,802 100
70-74 347 27 531 41 85 7 344 26 1,307 100
75-79 326 32 370 37 61 6 251 25 1,008 100
80-84 299 37 265 32 47 6 207 25 818 100
≥85 333 44 229 30 35 5 163 21 760 100

Pedestrians

The rate of pedestrian deaths per 100,000 population in 2015 was highest for people 85 and older, especially among males in this age group (4.4 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, 2015
AgeMaleFemaleTotal
PopulationDeathsRatePopulationDeathsRatePopulationDeaths*Rate
<13 26,938,198 113 0.4 25,808,897 73 0.3 52,747,095 186 0.4
13-15 6,391,912 53 0.8 6,127,522 23 0.4 12,519,434 76 0.6
16-19 8,624,878 119 1.4 8,234,283 75 0.9 16,859,161 194 1.2
20-24 11,667,854 313 2.7 11,071,459 98 0.9 22,739,313 411 1.8
25-29 11,409,399 303 2.7 11,052,155 104 0.9 22,461,554 407 1.8
30-34 10,889,739 243 2.2 10,785,909 100 0.9 21,675,648 344 1.6
35-39 10,173,424 276 2.7 10,201,161 108 1.1 20,374,585 384 1.9
40-44 10,030,153 265 2.6 10,185,045 104 1.0 20,215,198 370 1.8
45-49 10,334,929 288 2.8 10,518,915 134 1.3 20,853,844 422 2.0
50-54 10,963,847 406 3.7 11,370,470 164 1.4 22,334,317 571 2.6
55-59 10,597,567 386 3.6 11,210,375 142 1.3 21,807,942 529 2.4
60-64 9,117,180 317 3.5 9,952,697 112 1.1 19,069,877 430 2.3
65-69 7,596,190 206 2.7 8,471,278 97 1.1 16,067,468 304 1.9
70-74 5,296,158 134 2.5 6,186,891 82 1.3 11,483,049 216 1.9
75-79 3,610,906 119 3.3 4,512,927 61 1.4 8,123,833 180 2.2
80-84 2,412,665 78 3.2 3,386,676 54 1.6 5,799,341 132 2.3
≥85 2,174,298 95 4.4 4,112,863 75 1.8 6,287,161 170 2.7

Alcohol

Eight percent of fatally injured passenger vehicle drivers 70 years and older in 2015 had blood alcohol concentrations (BACs) at or above 0.08 percent, compared with 17 percent for drivers ages 60-69 and 36 percent for drivers ages 16-59.

Fatally injured passenger vehicle drivers with BAC ≥ 0.08 percent by age, 2015
AgeDrivers killedEstimated drivers killed with BACs ≥ 0.08
NumberNumber%
16-59 years 12,118 4,423 36
60-69 years 1,917 320 17
≥70 years 2,402 191 8

References