Older people | 2005

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).

Trends

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

Motor vehicle crash deaths per 100,000 people 70 years and older, 1975-2005
Year Population Deaths Rate
1975 14,563,945 3,775 26
1976 14,960,120 3,896 26
1977 15,401,249 3,859 25
1978 15,876,541 3,824 24
1979 16,388,617 3,772 23
1980 16,897,977 3,861 23
1981 17,322,714 3,871 22
1982 17,783,888 3,655 21
1983 18,233,751 3,733 20
1984 18,662,938 4,052 22
1985 19,072,785 4,206 22
1986 19,463,480 4,445 23
1987 19,890,817 4,555 23
1988 20,302,280 4,925 24
1989 20,719,397 4,943 24
1990 21,164,283 4,844 23
1991 21,751,897 4,843 22
1992 22,321,217 4,901 22
1993 22,800,673 5,221 23
1994 23,243,845 5,423 23
1995 23,693,757 5,509 23
1996 24,056,323 5,578 23
1997 24,408,817 5,871 24
1998 24,793,551 5,798 23
1999 25,092,805 5,657 23
2000 25,559,879 5,379 21
2001 25,797,467 5,425 21
2002 26,005,326 5,332 21
2003 26,200,946 5,363 20
2004 26,337,518 5,106 19
2005 26,658,669 5,032 19

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.

Motor vehicle crash deaths among people 70 and older, 1975-2005
Year Passenger vehicle occupant deaths Pedestrian deaths Motorcyclist deaths Other motor vehicle deaths All motor vehicle deaths
Num % Num % Num % Num % Num
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 2,546 68 1,081 29 13 <1 94 3 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 4,289 79 1,021 19 15 <1 100 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 4,747 81 931 16 21 <1 173 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 4,006 80 770 15 67 1 189 4 5,032

Population and mileage rates

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

Motor vehicle crash deaths per 100,000 people by age and gender, 2005
Age Male Female Total
Population Deaths Rate Population Deaths Rate Population Deaths* Rate
<16 33,305,469 1,334 4.0 31,781,247 1,012 3.2 65,086,716 2,348 3.6
16-19 8,541,332 2,992 35.0 8,111,201 1,467 18.1 16,652,533 4,459 26.8
20-24 10,856,936 4,498 41.4 10,180,924 1,364 13.4 21,037,860 5,862 27.9
25-29 10,268,169 2,964 28.9 9,797,533 888 9.1 20,065,702 3,852 19.2
30-34 10,153,091 2,402 23.7 9,924,119 830 8.4 20,077,210 3,232 16.1
35-39 10,563,375 2,274 21.5 10,438,579 853 8.2 21,001,954 3,127 14.9
40-44 11,376,664 2,473 21.7 11,483,846 970 8.4 22,860,510 3,443 15.1
45-49 11,106,575 2,361 21.3 11,377,948 934 8.2 22,484,523 3,295 14.7
50-54 9,788,780 2,101 21.5 10,208,962 771 7.6 19,997,742 2,872 14.4
55-59 8,425,070 1,643 19.5 8,928,608 728 8.2 17,353,678 2,371 13.7
60-64 6,201,648 1,211 19.5 6,800,215 602 8.9 13,001,863 1,813 13.9
65-69 4,721,791 944 20.0 5,409,653 536 9.9 10,131,444 1,480 14.6
70-74 3,807,605 827 21.7 4,700,764 509 10.8 8,508,369 1,336 15.7
75-79 3,117,774 818 26.2 4,294,039 591 13.8 7,411,813 1,410 19.0
80-84 2,161,671 684 31.6 3,480,878 535 15.4 5,642,549 1,219 21.6
≥ 85 1,603,796 599 37.3 3,492,142 468 13.4 5,095,938 1,067 20.9
*Total includes other and/or unknowns

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

Passenger vehicle fatal crash involvements per100 million miles traveled by driver age, April 2001–March 2002
Age Passenger vehicle fatal crash involvements Miles traveled Rate
16 1,021 10,991,775,116 9.3
17 1,410 17,007,229,957 8.3
18 1,790 27,575,876,114 6.5
19 1,885 26,116,988,928 7.2
20-24 7,184 167,139,739,780 4.3
25-29 4,873 215,143,526,035 2.3
30-34 4,438 258,141,237,337 1.7
35-39 4,492 269,147,680,452 1.7
40-44 4,255 288,295,560,019 1.5
45-49 3,530 226,862,752,042 1.6
50-54 2,878 215,764,866,751 1.3
55-59 2,238 138,646,175,519 1.6
60-64 1,678 112,124,892,364 1.5
65-69 1,416 81,468,138,271 1.7
70-74 1,453 59,206,606,813 2.5
75-79 1,477 35,214,532,480 4.2
80-84 1,046 16,566,473,047 6.3
≥ 85 740 5,097,372,229 14.5

Crash types

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.

Passenger vehicle drivers in fatal crashes by age and crash type, 2005
Age Multiple-vehicle intersection crashes Single-vehicle crashes Other multiple-vehicle crashes All crashes
Num % Num % Num % Num
16-19 1,162 22 2,448 46 1,724 32 5,334
20-24 1,427 20 3,280 46 2,474 34 7,181
25-29 1,039 21 2,101 42 1,903 38 5,043
30-34 943 23 1,651 40 1,582 38 4,176
35-39 910 23 1,527 39 1,512 38 3,949
40-44 969 24 1,451 36 1,667 41 4,087
45-49 839 22 1,328 36 1,568 42 3,735
50-54 716 23 1,074 35 1,298 42 3,088
55-59 609 24 820 32 1,126 44 2,555
60-64 522 26 646 33 819 41 1,987
65-69 438 29 469 31 588 39 1,495
70-74 447 34 392 30 479 36 1,318
75-79 480 41 306 26 399 34 1,185
80-84 428 44 238 24 315 32 981
≥ 85 354 48 166 22 219 30 739

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.

Pedestrian deaths per 100,000 people by age and gender, 2005
Age Male Female Total
Population Deaths Rate Population Deaths Rate Population Deaths* Rate
<13 26,679,527 170 0.6 25,469,868 106 0.4 52,149,395 276 0.5
13-15 6,625,942 63 1.0 6,311,379 49 0.8 12,937,321 112 0.9
16-19 8,541,332 144 1.7 8,111,201 70 0.9 16,652,533 214 1.3
20-24 10,856,936 280 2.6 10,180,924 83 0.8 21,037,860 363 1.7
25-29 10,268,169 222 2.2 9,797,533 72 0.7 20,065,702 294 1.5
30-34 10,153,091 231 2.3 9,924,119 88 0.9 20,077,210 319 1.6
35-39 10,563,375 253 2.4 10,438,579 90 0.9 21,001,954 343 1.6
40-44 11,376,664 339 3.0 11,483,846 122 1.1 22,860,510 461 2.0
45-49 11,106,575 355 3.2 11,377,948 118 1.0 22,484,523 473 2.1
50-54 9,788,780 333 3.4 10,208,962 95 0.9 19,997,742 428 2.1
55-59 8,425,070 232 2.8 8,928,608 102 1.1 17,353,678 334 1.9
60-64 6,201,648 158 2.5 6,800,215 63 0.9 13,001,863 221 1.7
65-69 4,721,791 155 3.3 5,409,653 56 1.0 10,131,444 211 2.1
70-74 3,807,605 131 3.4 4,700,764 64 1.4 8,508,369 195 2.3
75-79 3,117,774 136 4.4 4,294,039 85 2.0 7,411,813 221 3.0
80-84 2,161,671 109 5.0 3,480,878 93 2.7 5,642,549 202 3.6
≥ 85 1,603,796 80 5.0 3,492,142 72 2.1 5,095,938 152 3.0
*Total includes other and/or unknowns

Alcohol

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.

Fatally injured passenger vehicle drivers with BACs ≥ 0.08 by age, 2005
Age Drivers killed Estimated drivers killed with BACs ≥ 0.08
Num Num %
16-59 17,098 6,650 39
60-69 1,858 276 15
≥ 70 2,828 160 6

References