There are more drivers 70 and over today, but they crash less often than they used to.
Motor vehicle crashes account for less than 1 percent of fatalities among people 70 and older; heart disease and cancer are the leading causes of death. National Safety Council. 2006. Injury facts, 2005-2006 edition. Itasca, IL: National Safety Council. Proportionally, fewer people ages 70 and older are licensed to drive compared with those ages 20-69, and they drive fewer miles per licensed driver. However, increasingly older drivers are keeping their licenses longer and driving more miles than ever before.
Older drivers have low rates of police-reported crash involvements per capita, but per mile traveled crash rates increase starting at age 75 for drivers and increase markedly after age 80. This 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. Fragility begins to increase at ages 60-64. At age 75 older drivers begin to be markedly overinvolved in crashes, but fragility is the predominant factor explaining the elevated deaths per mile traveled among older drivers. 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).
A total of 5,032 people ages 70 and older died in motor vehicle crashes in 2005. This is 14 percent fewer than in 1997 when deaths peaked, but a 33 percent increase since 1975. The rate of fatalities per capita among older people has decreased 27 percent since 1975 and is now at its lowest level.
Motor vehicle crash deaths and deaths per 100,000 people 70 and older, 1975-2005
Eighty percent of motor vehicle crash deaths in 2005 involving people 70 and older were passenger vehicle occupants, and 15 percent were pedestrians. Since 1975 deaths of older passenger vehicle occupants have increased 74 percent while deaths of older pedestrians have declined 43 percent. Although few older adults are killed while riding motorcycles, this number has risen. Thirteen times as many people 70 and older were killed on motorcycles in 2005 than in 1975. From 2004 to 2005 the number of people 70 and older killed on motorcycles increased 63 percent.
In 2005 motor vehicle crash deaths per capita among males began to increase markedly starting at ages 75-79. Among females the death rate began to increase at ages 60-64 and increased gradually until ages 80-84. Across all age groups males had substantially higher death rates than females.
Motor vehicle crash deaths per 100,000 people by age and gender, 2005
Between April 2001 and March 2002 the rate of passenger vehicle fatal crash involvements per 100 million miles traveled was higher for drivers 80 and older than for drivers of any other age group except teenagers. Drivers 85 and older had the highest rate of fatal crash involvement. Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. Unpublished study. Analysis of data from the US 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, April 2001 to March 2002
Among passenger vehicle drivers involved in fatal crashes in 2005, the proportion involved in multiple-vehicle crashes at intersections was higher among drivers 70 and older than among those younger than 70. Multiple-vehicle crashes at intersections accounted for about half of fatal crash involvements among drivers 85 and older.
The rate of pedestrian deaths per 100,000 people in 2005 was higher for people 70 and older than for those younger than 70. Pedestrians 80 and older had a fatality rate twice as high as all pedestrians younger than 80 combined. For all age groups the rate of pedestrian deaths per capita was higher for males than females.
Six percent of fatally injured passenger vehicle drivers 70 and older in 2005 had blood alcohol concentrations (BACs) at or above 0.08 percent, compared with 15 percent for drivers ages 60-69 and 39 percent for drivers ages 16 to 59.
©1996-2016, Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, Highway Loss Data Institute | www.iihs.org
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