Older people | 2007

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. 2008. Injury facts, 2008 edition. Itasca, IL: National Safety Council. 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 starting at age 75 and increase markedly after age 80. This is largely due to increased susceptibility to injury, particularly chest injuries, and medical complications among older drivers 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 4,598 people ages 70 and older died in motor vehicle crashes in 2007. This is 22 percent fewer than in 1997 when deaths peaked, but a 22 percent increase since 1975. The rate of fatalities per capita among older people has decreased 35 percent since 1975 and is now at its lowest level.

Motor vehicle crash deaths and deaths per 100,000 people 70 and older, 1975-2007

Motor vehicle crash deaths per 100,000 people 70 years and older, 1975-2007
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 4,636 17
2007 27,135,517 4,598 17

Seventy-nine percent of motor vehicle crash deaths in 2007 involving people 70 and older were passenger vehicle occupants, and 16 percent were pedestrians. Since 1975, deaths of older passenger vehicle occupants have increased 57 percent, while deaths of older pedestrians have declined 47 percent. Although few older adults are killed while riding motorcycles, this number has risen. Almost fifteen times as many people 70 years and older were killed on motorcycles in 2007 than in 1975.

Motor vehicle crash deaths among people 70 and older, 1975-2007
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 3,681 79 707 15 62 1 186 4 4,636
2007 3,617 79 721 16 73 2 187 4 4,598

Population and mileage

In 2007 motor vehicle crash deaths per capita among males and females began to increase markedly starting at ages 70-74. Across all age groups males had substantially higher death rates than females.

Motor vehicle crash deaths per 100,000 people by age and gender, 2007

Motor vehicle crash deaths per 100,000 people by age and gender, 2007
Age Male Female Total
Population Deaths Rate Population Deaths Rate Population Deaths* Rate
<16 33,333,507 1,139 3.4 31,819,438 883 2.8 65,152,945 2,022 3.1
16-19 8,824,724 2,803 31.8 8,384,083 1,384 16.5 17,208,807 4,188 24.3
20-24 10,852,937 4,380 40.4 10,179,459 1,299 12.8 21,032,396 5,680 27.0
25-29 10,776,189 3,000 27.8 10,281,517 931 9.1 21,057,706 3,932 18.7
30-34 9,906,361 2,178 22.0 9,626,859 686 7.1 19,533,220 2,864 14.7
35-39 10,654,911 2,278 21.4 10,521,549 744 7.1 21,176,460 3,022 14.3
40-44 10,963,823 2,208 20.1 11,021,006 852 7.7 21,984,829 3,060 13.9
45-49 11,302,842 2,379 21.0 11,558,531 882 7.6 22,861,373 3,261 14.3
50-54 10,292,071 2,095 20.4 10,721,316 774 7.2 21,013,387 2,869 13.7
55-59 8,847,222 1,721 19.5 9,389,037 663 7.1 18,236,259 2,384 13.1
60-64 6,927,866 1,178 17.0 7,547,951 539 7.1 14,475,817 1,717 11.9
65-69 5,019,063 880 17.5 5,733,378 454 7.9 10,752,441 1,334 12.4
70-74 3,867,910 793 20.5 4,731,798 475 10.0 8,599,708 1,268 14.7
75-79 3,106,968 745 24.0 4,217,914 502 11.9 7,324,882 1,247 17.0
80-84 2,205,705 613 27.8 3,492,924 458 13.1 5,698,629 1,071 18.8
≥ 85 1,776,799 554 31.2 3,735,499 458 12.3 5,512,298 1,012 18.4
*Total includes other and/or unknowns

Based on travel data collected 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. 2008. [Unpublished 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 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 2007, the proportion in multiple-vehicle crashes at intersections increased as driver age increased starting at ages 55-59. Multiple-vehicle crashes at intersections accounted for 44 percent of fatal crash involvements among drivers 80 and older.

Passenger vehicle drivers in fatal crashes by age and crash type, 2007
Age Multiple-vehicle
intersection crashes
Other multiple-vehicle crashes Single-vehicle
intersection crashes
Other single-vehicle crashes All crashes*
16-19 1,047 21 1,521 31 240 5 2,117 43 4,927
20-24 1,328 20 2,251 33 396 6 2,806 41 6,782
25-29 1,038 21 1,766 36 283 6 1,817 37 4,907
30-34 819 22 1,404 38 211 6 1,269 34 3,706
35-39 812 23 1,359 38 220 6 1,210 34 3,604
40-44 780 22 1,417 39 195 5 1,203 33 3,598
45-49 770 22 1,413 41 171 5 1,083 31 3,439
50-54 639 22 1,211 42 158 5 881 30 2,894
55-59 607 24 1,046 41 115 5 761 30 2,530
60-64 479 25 815 43 86 5 522 27 1,902
65-69 425 31 532 38 61 4 367 26 1,386
70-74 424 35 433 35 52 4 313 26 1,223
75-79 445 39 380 33 71 6 253 22 1,152
80-84 396 45 260 29 36 4 195 22 887
≥ 85 306 44 215 31 30 4 148 21 699
*Total includes other and/or unknowns

The rate of pedestrian deaths per 100,000 people in 2007 was almost twice as high for people 70 and older combined (2.7 per 100,000) than for those younger than 70 combined (1.4 per 100,000). 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, 2007
Age Male Female Total
Population Deaths Rate Population Deaths Rate Population Deaths* Rate
<13 26,897,714 150 0.6 25,688,095 95 0.4 52,585,809 245 0.5
13-15 6,435,793 70 1.1 6,131,343 39 0.6 12,567,136 109 0.9
16-19 8,824,724 161 1.8 8,384,083 72 0.9 17,208,807 233 1.4
20-24 10,852,937 272 2.5 10,179,459 78 0.8 21,032,396 350 1.7
25-29 10,776,189 255 2.4 10,281,517 86 0.8 21,057,706 341 1.6
30-34 9,906,361 194 2.0 9,626,859 71 0.7 19,533,220 265 1.4
35-39 10,654,911 259 2.4 10,521,549 95 0.9 21,176,460 354 1.7
40-44 10,963,823 293 2.7 11,021,006 107 1.0 21,984,829 400 1.8
45-49 11,302,842 340 3.0 11,558,531 129 1.1 22,861,373 469 2.1
50-54 10,292,071 327 3.2 10,721,316 120 1.1 21,013,387 447 2.1
55-59 8,847,222 218 2.5 9,389,037 88 0.9 18,236,259 306 1.7
60-64 6,927,866 126 1.8 7,547,951 62 0.8 14,475,817 188 1.3
65-69 5,019,063 133 2.6 5,733,378 49 0.9 10,752,441 182 1.7
70-74 3,867,910 120 3.1 4,731,798 80 1.7 8,599,708 200 2.3
75-79 3,106,968 113 3.6 4,217,914 79 1.9 7,324,882 192 2.6
80-84 2,205,705 104 4.7 3,492,924 91 2.6 5,698,629 195 3.4
≥ 85 1,776,799 84 4.7 3,735,499 50 1.3 5,512,298 134 2.4
*Total includes other and/or unknowns

Alcohol

Six percent of fatally injured passenger vehicle drivers 70 years and older in 2007 had blood alcohol concentrations (BACs) at or above 0.08 percent, compared with 16 percent for drivers ages 60-69 and 41 percent for drivers ages 16 to 59.

Fatally injured passenger vehicle drivers with BAC ≥ 0.08 percent by age, 2007
Age Drivers killed Estimated drivers killed with BAC ≥ 0.08
Num Num %
16-59 16,025 6,590 41
60-69 1,661 262 16
≥ 70 2,603 164 6

References