Older people | 2006

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. 2007. Injury facts, 2007 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 4,611 people ages 70 and older died in motor vehicle crashes in 2006. This is 21 percent fewer than in 1997 when deaths peaked, but a 22 percent increase since 1975. Motor vehicle crash deaths of people 70 and older declined 9 percent from 2005 to 2006. The rate of fatalities per capita among older people has decreased 34 percent since 1975 and is now at its lowest level.

Motor vehicle crash deaths and deaths per 100,000 people 70 and older, 1975-2006

Motor vehicle crash deaths per 100,000 people 70 years and older, 1975-2006
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 5,047 19
2006 26,884,798 4,611 17

Seventy-nine percent of motor vehicle crash deaths in 2006 involving people 70 and older were passenger vehicle occupants, and 15 percent were pedestrians. Since 1975 deaths of older passenger vehicle occupants have increased 58 percent, while deaths of older pedestrians have declined 48 percent. Although few older adults are killed while riding motorcycles, this number has risen. Twelve times as many people 70 years and older were killed on motorcycles in 2006 than in 1975.

Motor vehicle crash deaths among people 70 and older, 1975-2006
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 4,016 80 777 15 68 1 186 4 5,047
2006 3,648 79 702 15 62 1 199 4 4,611

Population and mileage rates

In 2006 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 70-74 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, 2006

Motor vehicle crash deaths per 100,000 people by age and gender,2006
Age Male Female Total
Population Deaths Rate Population Deaths Rate Population Deaths* Rate
<16 33,298,383 1,206 3.6 31,784,504 964 3.0 65,082,887 2,173 3.3
16-19 8,718,360 2,953 33.9 8,277,859 1,437 17.4 16,996,219 4,409 25.9
20-24 10,910,090 4,554 41.7 10,201,150 1,377 13.5 21,111,240 5,950 28.2
25-29 10,584,270 3,093 29.2 10,125,210 920 9.1 20,709,480 4,025 19.4
30-34 9,980,383 2,367 23.7 9,726,116 767 7.9 19,706,499 3,144 16.0
35-39 10,649,913 2,205 20.7 10,535,872 849 8.1 21,185,785 3,065 14.5
40-44 11,200,369 2,331 20.8 11,280,796 959 8.5 22,481,165 3,296 14.7
45-49 11,261,856 2,444 21.7 11,535,713 888 7.7 22,797,569 3,343 14.7
50-54 10,027,772 2,089 20.8 10,452,833 785 7.5 20,480,605 2,889 14.1
55-59 8,845,291 1,684 19.0 9,379,154 709 7.6 18,224,445 2,400 13.2
60-64 6,378,589 1,172 18.4 6,983,649 596 8.5 13,362,238 1,778 13.3
65-69 4,838,842 910 18.8 5,536,712 490 8.9 10,375,554 1,406 13.6
70-74 3,831,425 716 18.7 4,709,865 486 10.3 8,541,290 1,205 14.1
75-79 3,119,130 733 23.5 4,261,897 530 12.4 7,381,027 1,271 17.2
80-84 2,179,201 605 27.8 3,486,463 545 15.6 5,665,664 1,153 20.4
≥85 1,688,278 554 32.8 3,608,539 421 11.7 5,296,817 982 18.5
*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 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, April 2001 to March 2002

Passenger vehicle fatal crash involvements per 100 million miles traveled by driver age, April 2001 to 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 2006, the proportion 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, 2006
Age Multiple-vehicle intersection crashes Other multiple-vehicle crashes Single-vehicle intersection crashes Other single-vehicle crashes All crashes*
16-19 1,091 21 1,600 31 243 5 2,301 44 5,237
20-24 1,397 20 2,333 33 392 6 2,991 42 7,122
25-29 1,041 20 1,893 37 287 6 1,869 37 5,097
30-34 875 22 1,515 39 197 5 1,339 34 3,930
35-39 839 22 1,496 39 179 5 1,282 34 3,800
40-44 866 23 1,523 40 199 5 1,236 32 3,825
45-49 814 22 1,482 41 182 5 1,152 32 3,631
50-54 696 23 1,224 41 130 4 913 31 2,964
55-59 624 25 990 40 115 5 759 30 2,492
60-64 493 26 749 40 100 5 538 29 1,882
65-69 391 27 627 44 57 4 363 25 1,439
70-74 409 35 425 36 52 4 287 24 1,178
75-79 444 38 383 33 46 4 301 26 1,175
80-84 432 44 309 31 31 3 209 21 981
≥ 85 343 49 211 30 29 4 117 17 702
*Total includes other and/or unknowns

The rate of pedestrian deaths per 100,000 people in 2006 was higher for people 70 and older combined than for those younger than 70 combined. Pedestrians 80 and older had a fatality rate about 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, 2006
Age Male Female Total
Population Deaths Rate Population Deaths Rate Population Deaths* Rate
< 13 26,755,298 171 0.6 25,551,610 94 0.4 52,306,908 265 0.5
13-15 6,543,085 71 1.1 6,232,894 32 0.5 12,775,979 104 0.8
16-19 8,718,360 138 1.6 8,277,859 74 0.9 16,996,219 213 1.3
20-24 10,910,090 258 2.4 10,201,150 92 0.9 21,111,240 351 1.7
25-29 10,584,270 251 2.4 10,125,210 65 0.6 20,709,480 317 1.5
30-34 9,980,383 233 2.3 9,726,116 64 0.7 19,706,499 298 1.5
35-39 10,649,913 253 2.4 10,535,872 86 0.8 21,185,785 341 1.6
40-44 11,200,369 305 2.7 11,280,796 124 1.1 22,481,165 429 1.9
45-49 11,261,856 372 3.3 11,535,713 132 1.1 22,797,569 506 2.2
50-54 10,027,772 321 3.2 10,452,833 100 1.0 20,480,605 427 2.1
55-59 8,845,291 204 2.3 9,379,154 102 1.1 18,224,445 307 1.7
60-64 6,378,589 179 2.8 6,983,649 81 1.2 13,362,238 260 1.9
65-69 4,838,842 130 2.7 5,536,712 70 1.3 10,375,554 202 1.9
70-74 3,831,425 99 2.6 4,709,865 73 1.5 8,541,290 172 2.0
75-79 3,119,130 117 3.8 4,261,897 96 2.3 7,381,027 215 2.9
80-84 2,179,201 91 4.2 3,486,463 94 2.7 5,665,664 187 3.3
≥ 85 1,688,278 72 4.3 3,608,539 55 1.5 5,296,817 128 2.4
*Total includes other and/or unknowns

Alcohol

Six percent of fatally injured passenger vehicle drivers 70 years and older in 2006 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 BAC ≥ 0.08 by age, 2006
Age Drivers killed Estimated drivers killed with BAC ≥ 0.08
Num Num %
16-59 17,010 6,677 39
60-69 1,718 253 15
≥ 70 2,669 168 6

References