Older people | 2009

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 Center for Injury Prevention and Control. 2006. Web-based Injury Statistics Query and Reporting System (WISQARS). Atlanta, GA: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Available: http://www.cdc.gov/injury/wisqars/. 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 3,981 people ages 70 and older died in motor vehicle crashes in 2009. This is 32 percent fewer than in 1997 when deaths peaked, but a 5 percent increase since 1975. Deaths of older people were 7 percent lower in 2009 than in 2008. The rate of fatalities per capita among older people has decreased 45 percent since 1975 and is now at its lowest level during this period.

Motor vehicle crash deaths and deaths per 100,000 people 70 and older, 1975-2009

Motor vehicle crash deaths per 100,000 people 70 years and older, 1975-2009
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
198318,233,7513,73420
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
199423,243,8455,42523
199523,693,7575,50923
199624,056,3235,57823
199724,408,8175,87224
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
200526,658,6695,04719
200626,884,7984,63617
200727,135,5174,63117
200827,521,0344,29116
200927,786,2703,98114

Eighty percent of motor vehicle crash deaths in 2009 involving people 70 and older were passenger vehicle occupants, and 14 percent were pedestrians. Since 1997, deaths of older passenger vehicle occupants have declined 33 percent, while deaths of older pedestrians have declined 38 percent. Although few older adults are killed while riding motorcycles, this number has risen. Almost four times as many people 70 years and older were killed on motorcycles in 2009 than in 1997.

Motor vehicle crash deaths among people 70 and older, 1975-2009
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
19832,547681,0812913< 19323,734
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
19944,291791,0211915< 19825,425
19954,368791,0081811< 112225,509
19964,492819511717< 111825,578
19974,748819311621< 117235,872
19984,683819651718< 113225,798
19994,587818851623< 116235,657
20004,406828071534113225,379
20014,389818781636112225,425
20024,287808451636116435,332
20034,377827771448116135,363
20044,113817631541118945,106
20054,016807771568118645,047
20063,681797071562118644,636
20073,661797261672217244,631
20083,4017960314108317944,291
20093,180805771480214443,981

In 2009, 61 percent of the deaths in crashes involving drivers 70 and older were the older driver themselves, and 16 percent were their passengers. Twenty-two percent of deaths were occupants of other vehicles or motorcyclists, bicyclists, or pedestrians. In contrast, in crashes involving at least one driver younger than 30, 42 percent of the deaths were the drivers younger then 30, 24 percent were their passengers, and 34 percent were occupants of other vehicles or motorcyclists, bicyclists, or pedestrians.

Deaths in crashes involving drivers younger than 30, ages 30-69, and 70 and older, by type of road user, 2009
 Deaths involving at least one driver younger than 30Deaths involving at least one driver age 30-69Deaths involving at least one driver 70 or older
Num%Num%Num%
Deaths in vehicle with a driver that age
     Drivers
5,671428,829492,28361
     Passengers
3,156242,7871661616
Deaths of occupants in vehicle without a driver that age
2,432182,7471540311
Motorcyclists, bicyclists, and pedestrians
2,136163,5982045512
Total*
13,44810018,0311003,765100
Note: Crashes involving passenger vehicle drivers in more than 1 age category appear in more than 1 column.
* Total includes other and/or unknowns

Population and mileage rates

In 2009 motor vehicle crash death rates per capita among males increased markedly starting at ages 75-79. The per capita crash death rate among females increased beginning at ages 65-60 but then declined among people 85 and older. Across all age groups males had substantially higher death rates than females.

Motor vehicle crash deaths per 100,000 people by age and gender, 2009

Motor vehicle crash deaths per 100,000 people by age and gender, 2009
AgeMaleFemaleTotal
PopulationDeathsRatePopulationDeathsRatePopulationDeaths*Rate
< 1633,763,2918482.532,253,2986892.166,016,5891,5382.3
16-198,933,4281,93721.78,470,6741,05212.417,404,1022,99017.2
20-2411,093,5523,20728.910,446,0071,0219.821,539,5594,22919.6
25-2911,115,5602,48722.410,562,1597977.521,677,7193,28415.1
30-3410,107,9741,78117.69,780,6296246.419,888,6032,40512.1
35-3910,353,0161,73216.710,185,3355965.920,538,3512,32811.3
40-4410,504,1391,85517.710,487,4666436.120,991,6052,49811.9
45-4911,295,5242,04818.111,535,5687746.722,831,0922,82212.4
50-5410,677,8471,91617.911,083,5446595.921,761,3912,57511.8
55-599,204,6661,47716.09,770,3605785.918,975,0262,05510.8
60-647,576,9331,23016.28,234,9904966.015,811,9231,72610.9
65-695,511,16486215.66,273,1564457.111,784,3201,30711.1
70-744,082,22666116.24,925,5214068.29,007,7471,06711.8
75-793,149,23659418.94,176,2923879.37,325,52898113.4
80-842,298,26056124.43,524,07446713.35,822,3341,02817.7
≥ 851,782,67449227.63,847,98741310.75,630,66190516.1
*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. 2010. [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
AgeFatal 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 2009, the proportion in multiple-vehicle crashes at intersections increased markedly starting at ages 70-74. Multiple-vehicle crashes at intersections accounted for 42 percent of fatal crash involvements among drivers 80 and older, compared to 20-22 percent for drivers younger than 50.

Passenger vehicle drivers in fatal crashes by age and crash type, 2009
AgeMultiple-vehicle intersection crashesOther multiple-vehicle crashesSingle-vehicle intersection crashesOther single-vehicle crashesAll crashes*
16-19741211,0943019251,569443,600
20-241,025201,6053133972,207435,177
25-29810201,4393528071,556384,087
30-34631211,1383817661,084363,034
35-39652221,121381786990342,944
40-44642221,111391726949332,877
45-49639221,158391615993342,951
50-5459023985381295856332,563
55-5948923839391125685322,129
60-6445325687391156525291,780
65-693462554840554410301,359
70-743182942739575296271,098
75-79331353233433425327941
80-84345402553037422526862
≥ 85287441792832515123650
*Total includes other and/or unknowns

The rate of pedestrian deaths per 100,000 people in 2009 was high for people 75 and older. The rate was especially high among males ages 80-84 (4.0 deaths per 100,000 people) and males 85 and older (3.6 deaths per 100,000 people). 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, 2009
AgeMaleFemaleTotal
PopulationDeathsRatePopulationDeathsRatePopulationDeaths*Rate
< 1327,482,0421260.526,271,370720.353,753,4121980.4
13-156,281,249490.85,981,928290.512,263,177780.6
16-198,933,4281231.48,470,674550.617,404,1021781.0
20-2411,093,5522382.110,446,007880.821,539,5593261.5
25-2911,115,5602081.910,562,159740.721,677,7192821.3
30-3410,107,9741821.89,780,629750.819,888,6032571.3
35-3910,353,0161871.810,185,335760.720,538,3512631.3
40-4410,504,1392372.310,487,4661051.020,991,6053421.6
45-4911,295,5242852.511,535,5681271.122,831,0924121.8
50-5410,677,8472972.811,083,5441040.921,761,3914011.8
55-599,204,6662362.69,770,360850.918,975,0263211.7
60-647,576,9331592.18,234,990780.915,811,9232371.5
65-695,511,1641282.36,273,156701.111,784,3201981.7
70-744,082,226992.44,925,521671.49,007,7471661.8
75-793,149,236892.84,176,292571.47,325,5281462.0
80-842,298,260924.03,524,074631.85,822,3341552.7
≥ 851,782,674643.63,847,987461.25,630,6611102.0
*Total includes other and/or unknowns

Alcohol

Five percent of fatally injured passenger vehicle drivers 70 years and older in 2009 had blood alcohol concentrations (BACs) at or above 0.08 percent, compared with 17 percent for drivers ages 60-69 and 43 percent for drivers ages 16 to 59.

Fatally injured passenger vehicle drivers with BAC≥0.08 percent by age, 2009
AgeDrivers killedEstimated drivers killed with BAC ≥ 0.08
NumNum%
16-5912,8675,47443
60-691,59426417
≥ 702,2831135


References