There are more drivers 70 and over today, but they crash less often than they used to.
In 2010, motor vehicle crashes accounted 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. 2012. Web-based Injury Statistics Query and Reporting System (WISQARS), 2010 fatal injury data. Atlanta, GA: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Available: http://www.cdc.gov/injury/wisqars/index.html.
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 noticeably starting at age 70-74 and are highest among drivers 85 and older. The increased fatal crash risk among older drivers 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.
The following facts are based on analysis of data from the U.S. Department of Transportation's Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS).
A total of 4,139 people ages 70 and older died in motor vehicle crashes in 2010. This is 30 percent fewer than in 1997 when deaths peaked, but a 10 percent increase since 1975. Deaths of older people were 4 percent higher in 2010 than in 2009. The rate of fatalities per capita among older people has decreased 42 percent since 1975 and was at its lowest level in 2009.
Motor vehicle crash deaths and deaths per 100,000 people 70 and older, 1975-2010
Seventy-eight percent of motor vehicle crash deaths in 2010 involving people 70 and older were passenger vehicle occupants, and 15 percent were pedestrians. Since 1997, deaths of older passenger vehicle occupants have declined 32 percent, while deaths of older pedestrians have declined 33 percent. Although few older adults are killed while riding motorcycles, this number has risen. Almost six times as many motorcyclists 70 years and older were killed in 2010 than in 1997.
In 2010, 61 percent of the deaths in crashes involving drivers 70 and older were the older driver themselves, and 17 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, 41 percent of the deaths were the drivers younger then 30, 24 percent were their passengers, and 35 percent were occupants of other vehicles or motorcyclists, bicyclists, or pedestrians.
In 2010 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 65-69 but then declined slightly 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, 2010
In 2008, the rate of passenger vehicle fatal crash involvements per 100 million miles traveled began to increase noticeably at age 70-74. Drivers 85 and older had the highest rate of fatal crash involvement.
Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. 2012. [Unpublished analysis of 2008 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, 2008
Among passenger vehicle drivers involved in fatal crashes in 2010, the proportion in multiple-vehicle crashes at intersections increased markedly starting at ages 70-74. Multiple-vehicle crashes at intersections accounted for 39 percent of fatal crash involvements among drivers 80 and older, compared to 17-19 percent for drivers ages 20-49.
The rate of pedestrian deaths per 100,000 people in 2010 was higher for people 75 and older than for people younger than 75. The rate was especially high among males ages 85 and older (4.8 deaths per 100,000 people). For all age groups the rate of pedestrian deaths per capita was higher for males than females.
Six percent of fatally injured passenger vehicle drivers 70 years and older in 2010 had blood alcohol concentrations (BACs) at or above 0.08 percent, compared with 16 percent for drivers ages 60-69 and 40 percent for drivers ages 16 to 59.
©1996-2015, Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, Highway Loss Data Institute | www.iihs.org
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