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
YearPopulationDeathsRate
197514,563,9453,77526
197614,960,1203,89626
197715,401,2493,85925
197815,876,5413,82424
197916,388,6173,77223
198016,897,9773,86123
198117,322,7143,87122
198217,783,8883,65521
198318,233,7513,73320
198418,662,9384,05222
198519,072,7854,20622
198619,463,4804,44523
198719,890,8174,55523
198820,302,2804,92524
198920,719,3974,94324
199021,164,2834,84423
199121,751,8974,84322
199222,321,2174,90122
199322,800,6735,22123
199423,243,8455,42323
199523,693,7575,50923
199624,056,3235,57823
199724,408,8175,87124
199824,793,5515,79823
199925,092,8055,65723
200025,559,8795,37921
200125,797,4675,42521
200226,005,3265,33221
200326,200,9465,36320
200426,337,5185,10619
200526,658,6695,03219

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
YearPassenger vehicle occupant deathsPedestrian deathsMotorcyclist deathsOther motor vehicle deathsAll motor vehicle deaths
Num%Num%Num%Num%Num
19752,302611,348365<112033,775
19762,490641,291337<110833,896
19772,370611,3833611<19523,859
19782,515661,214329<18623,824
19792,391631,2773410<19423,772
19802,399621,3443514<110433,861
19812,495641,2783311<18723,871
19822,430661,124319<19233,655
19832,546681,0812913<19433,734
19842,764681,1642920<110434,052
19852,933701,1702810<19324,206
19863,166711,157269<111334,445
19873,276721,1602518<110124,555
19883,540721,2712617<19724,925
19893,658741,180249<19624,943
19903,525731,1952522<110224,844
19913,690761,0442211<19824,843
19923,801789972013<19024,901
19934,076781,0121917<111625,221
19944,289791,0211915<110025,425
19954,368791,0081811<112225,509
19964,492819511717<111825,578
19974,747819311621<117335,872
19984,683819651718<113225,798
19994,587818851623<116235,657
20004,406828071534113225,379
20014,389818781636112225,425
20024,287808451636116435,332
20034,377827771448116135,363
20044,113817631541118945,106
20054,006807701567118945,032

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
AgeMaleFemaleTotal
PopulationDeathsRatePopulationDeathsRatePopulationDeaths*Rate
<1633,305,4691,3344.031,781,2471,0123.265,086,7162,3483.6
16-198,541,3322,99235.08,111,2011,46718.116,652,5334,45926.8
20-2410,856,9364,49841.410,180,9241,36413.421,037,8605,86227.9
25-2910,268,1692,96428.99,797,5338889.120,065,7023,85219.2
30-3410,153,0912,40223.79,924,1198308.420,077,2103,23216.1
35-3910,563,3752,27421.510,438,5798538.221,001,9543,12714.9
40-4411,376,6642,47321.711,483,8469708.422,860,5103,44315.1
45-4911,106,5752,36121.311,377,9489348.222,484,5233,29514.7
50-549,788,7802,10121.510,208,9627717.619,997,7422,87214.4
55-598,425,0701,64319.58,928,6087288.217,353,6782,37113.7
60-646,201,6481,21119.56,800,2156028.913,001,8631,81313.9
65-694,721,79194420.05,409,6535369.910,131,4441,48014.6
70-743,807,60582721.74,700,76450910.88,508,3691,33615.7
75-793,117,77481826.24,294,03959113.87,411,8131,41019.0
80-842,161,67168431.63,480,87853515.45,642,5491,21921.6
≥ 851,603,79659937.33,492,14246813.45,095,9381,06720.9
*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
AgePassenger vehicle fatal crash involvementsMiles traveledRate
161,02110,991,775,1169.3
171,41017,007,229,9578.3
181,79027,575,876,1146.5
191,88526,116,988,9287.2
20-247,184167,139,739,7804.3
25-294,873215,143,526,0352.3
30-344,438258,141,237,3371.7
35-394,492269,147,680,4521.7
40-444,255288,295,560,0191.5
45-493,530226,862,752,0421.6
50-542,878215,764,866,7511.3
55-592,238138,646,175,5191.6
60-641,678112,124,892,3641.5
65-691,41681,468,138,2711.7
70-741,45359,206,606,8132.5
75-791,47735,214,532,4804.2
80-841,04616,566,473,0476.3
≥ 857405,097,372,22914.5

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
AgeMultiple-vehicle intersection crashesSingle-vehicle crashesOther multiple-vehicle crashesAll crashes
Num%Num%Num%Num
16-191,162222,448461,724325,334
20-241,427203,280462,474347,181
25-291,039212,101421,903385,043
30-34943231,651401,582384,176
35-39910231,527391,512383,949
40-44969241,451361,667414,087
45-49839221,328361,568423,735
50-54716231,074351,298423,088
55-5960924820321,126442,555
60-645222664633819411,987
65-694382946931588391,495
70-744473439230479361,318
75-794804130626399341,185
80-84428442382431532981
≥ 85354481662221930739

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
AgeMaleFemaleTotal
PopulationDeathsRatePopulationDeathsRatePopulationDeaths*Rate
<1326,679,5271700.625,469,8681060.452,149,3952760.5
13-156,625,942631.06,311,379490.812,937,3211120.9
16-198,541,3321441.78,111,201700.916,652,5332141.3
20-2410,856,9362802.610,180,924830.821,037,8603631.7
25-2910,268,1692222.29,797,533720.720,065,7022941.5
30-3410,153,0912312.39,924,119880.920,077,2103191.6
35-3910,563,3752532.410,438,579900.921,001,9543431.6
40-4411,376,6643393.011,483,8461221.122,860,5104612.0
45-4911,106,5753553.211,377,9481181.022,484,5234732.1
50-549,788,7803333.410,208,962950.919,997,7424282.1
55-598,425,0702322.88,928,6081021.117,353,6783341.9
60-646,201,6481582.56,800,215630.913,001,8632211.7
65-694,721,7911553.35,409,653561.010,131,4442112.1
70-743,807,6051313.44,700,764641.48,508,3691952.3
75-793,117,7741364.44,294,039852.07,411,8132213.0
80-842,161,6711095.03,480,878932.75,642,5492023.6
≥ 851,603,796805.03,492,142722.15,095,9381523.0
*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
AgeDrivers killedEstimated drivers killed with BACs ≥ 0.08
NumNum%
16-5917,0986,65039
60-691,85827615
≥ 702,8281606

References