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
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 3,734 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 5,425 23
1995 23,693,757 5,509 23
1996 24,056,323 5,578 23
1997 24,408,817 5,872 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 4,631 17
2008 27,521,034 4,291 16
2009 27,786,270 3,981 14

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
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 2,547 68 1,081 29 13 < 1 93 2 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 4,291 79 1,021 19 15 < 1 98 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 4,748 81 931 16 21 < 1 172 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 3,661 79 726 16 72 2 172 4 4,631
2008 3,401 79 603 14 108 3 179 4 4,291
2009 3,180 80 577 14 80 2 144 4 3,981

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 30 Deaths involving at least one driver age 30-69 Deaths involving at least one driver 70 or older
Num % Num % Num %
Deaths in vehicle with a driver that age
     Drivers
5,671 42 8,829 49 2,283 61
     Passengers
3,156 24 2,787 16 616 16
Deaths of occupants in vehicle without a driver that age
2,432 18 2,747 15 403 11
Motorcyclists, bicyclists, and pedestrians
2,136 16 3,598 20 455 12
Total*
13,448 100 18,031 100 3,765 100
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
Age Male Female Total
Population Deaths Rate Population Deaths Rate Population Deaths* Rate
< 16 33,763,291 848 2.5 32,253,298 689 2.1 66,016,589 1,538 2.3
16-19 8,933,428 1,937 21.7 8,470,674 1,052 12.4 17,404,102 2,990 17.2
20-24 11,093,552 3,207 28.9 10,446,007 1,021 9.8 21,539,559 4,229 19.6
25-29 11,115,560 2,487 22.4 10,562,159 797 7.5 21,677,719 3,284 15.1
30-34 10,107,974 1,781 17.6 9,780,629 624 6.4 19,888,603 2,405 12.1
35-39 10,353,016 1,732 16.7 10,185,335 596 5.9 20,538,351 2,328 11.3
40-44 10,504,139 1,855 17.7 10,487,466 643 6.1 20,991,605 2,498 11.9
45-49 11,295,524 2,048 18.1 11,535,568 774 6.7 22,831,092 2,822 12.4
50-54 10,677,847 1,916 17.9 11,083,544 659 5.9 21,761,391 2,575 11.8
55-59 9,204,666 1,477 16.0 9,770,360 578 5.9 18,975,026 2,055 10.8
60-64 7,576,933 1,230 16.2 8,234,990 496 6.0 15,811,923 1,726 10.9
65-69 5,511,164 862 15.6 6,273,156 445 7.1 11,784,320 1,307 11.1
70-74 4,082,226 661 16.2 4,925,521 406 8.2 9,007,747 1,067 11.8
75-79 3,149,236 594 18.9 4,176,292 387 9.3 7,325,528 981 13.4
80-84 2,298,260 561 24.4 3,524,074 467 13.3 5,822,334 1,028 17.7
≥ 85 1,782,674 492 27.6 3,847,987 413 10.7 5,630,661 905 16.1
*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
Age 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 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
Age Multiple-vehicle intersection crashes Other multiple-vehicle crashes Single-vehicle intersection crashes Other single-vehicle crashes All crashes*
16-19 741 21 1,094 30 192 5 1,569 44 3,600
20-24 1,025 20 1,605 31 339 7 2,207 43 5,177
25-29 810 20 1,439 35 280 7 1,556 38 4,087
30-34 631 21 1,138 38 176 6 1,084 36 3,034
35-39 652 22 1,121 38 178 6 990 34 2,944
40-44 642 22 1,111 39 172 6 949 33 2,877
45-49 639 22 1,158 39 161 5 993 34 2,951
50-54 590 23 985 38 129 5 856 33 2,563
55-59 489 23 839 39 112 5 685 32 2,129
60-64 453 25 687 39 115 6 525 29 1,780
65-69 346 25 548 40 55 4 410 30 1,359
70-74 318 29 427 39 57 5 296 27 1,098
75-79 331 35 323 34 33 4 253 27 941
80-84 345 40 255 30 37 4 225 26 862
≥ 85 287 44 179 28 32 5 151 23 650
*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
Age Male Female Total
Population Deaths Rate Population Deaths Rate Population Deaths* Rate
< 13 27,482,042 126 0.5 26,271,370 72 0.3 53,753,412 198 0.4
13-15 6,281,249 49 0.8 5,981,928 29 0.5 12,263,177 78 0.6
16-19 8,933,428 123 1.4 8,470,674 55 0.6 17,404,102 178 1.0
20-24 11,093,552 238 2.1 10,446,007 88 0.8 21,539,559 326 1.5
25-29 11,115,560 208 1.9 10,562,159 74 0.7 21,677,719 282 1.3
30-34 10,107,974 182 1.8 9,780,629 75 0.8 19,888,603 257 1.3
35-39 10,353,016 187 1.8 10,185,335 76 0.7 20,538,351 263 1.3
40-44 10,504,139 237 2.3 10,487,466 105 1.0 20,991,605 342 1.6
45-49 11,295,524 285 2.5 11,535,568 127 1.1 22,831,092 412 1.8
50-54 10,677,847 297 2.8 11,083,544 104 0.9 21,761,391 401 1.8
55-59 9,204,666 236 2.6 9,770,360 85 0.9 18,975,026 321 1.7
60-64 7,576,933 159 2.1 8,234,990 78 0.9 15,811,923 237 1.5
65-69 5,511,164 128 2.3 6,273,156 70 1.1 11,784,320 198 1.7
70-74 4,082,226 99 2.4 4,925,521 67 1.4 9,007,747 166 1.8
75-79 3,149,236 89 2.8 4,176,292 57 1.4 7,325,528 146 2.0
80-84 2,298,260 92 4.0 3,524,074 63 1.8 5,822,334 155 2.7
≥ 85 1,782,674 64 3.6 3,847,987 46 1.2 5,630,661 110 2.0
*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
Age Drivers killed Estimated drivers killed with BAC ≥ 0.08
Num Num %
16-59 12,867 5,474 43
60-69 1,594 264 17
≥ 70 2,283 113 5


References