Older people | 2010

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).

Trends

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

Motor vehicle crash deaths per 100,000 people 70 years and older, 1975-2010
YearPopulationDeathsRate
1975 14,563,945 3,775 25.9
1976 14,960,120 3,896 26.0
1977 15,401,249 3,859 25.1
1978 15,876,541 3,824 24.1
1979 16,388,617 3,772 23.0
1980 16,897,977 3,861 22.8
1981 17,322,714 3,871 22.3
1982 17,783,888 3,655 20.6
1983 18,233,751 3,734 20.5
1984 18,662,938 4,052 21.7
1985 19,072,785 4,206 22.1
1986 19,463,480 4,445 22.8
1987 19,890,817 4,555 22.9
1988 20,302,280 4,925 24.3
1989 20,719,397 4,943 23.9
1990 21,164,283 4,844 22.9
1991 21,751,897 4,843 22.3
1992 22,321,217 4,901 22.0
1993 22,800,673 5,221 22.9
1994 23,243,845 5,425 23.3
1995 23,693,757 5,509 23.3
1996 24,056,323 5,578 23.2
1997 24,408,817 5,872 24.1
1998 24,793,551 5,798 23.4
1999 25,092,805 5,657 22.5
2000 25,559,879 5,379 21.0
2001 25,797,467 5,425 21.0
2002 26,005,326 5,332 20.5
2003 26,200,946 5,363 20.5
2004 26,337,518 5,106 19.4
2005 26,658,669 5,047 18.9
2006 26,884,798 4,636 17.2
2007 27,135,517 4,631 17.1
2008 27,521,034 4,291 15.6
2009 27,786,270 3,995 14.4
2010 27,832,721 4,139 14.9

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.

Motor vehicle crash deaths among people 70 and older, 1975-2010
YearPassenger vehicle occupant deathsPedestrian deaths Motorcyclist deaths Other motor vehicle deaths All motor vehicle deaths
Number%Number%Number%Number%Number
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 3,194 80 578 14 80 2 143 4 3,995
2010 3,215 78 625 15 121 3 178 4 4,139

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.

Deaths in crashes involving drivers younger than 30, ages 30-69, and 70 and older, by type of road user, 2010
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
Number% Number% Number%
Deaths in passenger vehicles with a driver that age
   -Drivers 5,105 41 8,549 49 2,320 61
   -Passengers 2,994 24 2,566 15 626 17
Deaths of occupants in passenger vehicles without a driver that age 2,296 18 2,732 16 381 10
Motorcyclists, bicyclists and pedestrians 2,137 17 3,736 21 460 12
Total* 12,597 100 17,673 100 3,800 100

Population and mileage rates

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

Motor vehicle crash deaths per 100,000 people by age and gender, 2010
AgeMaleFemaleTotal
PopulationDeathsRatePopulationDeathsRatePopulationDeaths*Rate
<16 33,465,949 827 2.5 32,004,084 601 1.9 65,470,033 1,428 2.2
16-19 9,126,644 1,760 19.3 8,670,879 889 10.3 17,797,523 2,649 14.9
20-24 11,014,176 3,028 27.5 10,571,823 1,089 10.3 21,585,999 4,117 19.1
25-29 10,635,591 2,315 21.8 10,466,258 788 7.5 21,101,849 3,103 14.7
30-34 9,996,500 1,819 18.2 9,965,599 616 6.2 19,962,099 2,435 12.2
35-39 10,042,022 1,613 16.1 10,137,620 623 6.1 20,179,642 2,236 11.1
40-44 10,393,977 1,668 16.0 10,496,987 630 6.0 20,890,964 2,299 11.0
45-49 11,209,085 1,896 16.9 11,499,506 702 6.1 22,708,591 2,598 11.4
50-54 10,933,274 1,811 16.6 11,364,851 670 5.9 22,298,125 2,481 11.1
55-59 9,523,648 1,611 16.9 10,141,157 628 6.2 19,664,805 2,239 11.4
60-64 8,077,500 1,274 15.8 8,740,424 496 5.7 16,817,924 1,770 10.5
65-69 5,852,547 867 14.8 6,582,716 478 7.3 12,435,263 1,345 10.8
70-74 4,243,972 641 15.1 5,034,194 392 7.8 9,278,166 1,033 11.1
75-79 3,182,388 645 20.3 4,135,407 443 10.7 7,317,795 1,088 14.9
80-84 2,294,374 530 23.1 3,448,953 454 13.2 5,743,327 985 17.2
≥85 1,789,679 559 31.2 3,703,754 474 12.8 5,493,433 1,033 18.8

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

Passenger vehicle fatal crash involvements per 100 million miles traveled by driver age, 2008
AgeCrash involvementsMilesRate
16-19 4,040 87,827,113,152 4.6
20-24 5,758 150,169,083,027 3.8
25-29 4,467 125,785,167,292 3.6
30-34 3,389 187,437,561,189 1.8
35-39 3,255 257,638,960,689 1.3
40-44 3,180 331,007,230,699 1.0
45-49 3,094 228,855,849,762 1.4
50-54 2,740 231,251,749,983 1.2
55-59 2,287 208,672,980,163 1.1
60-64 1,889 163,360,796,073 1.2
65-69 1,322 97,438,632,690 1.4
70-74 1,167 55,293,327,384 2.1
75-79 1,050 39,017,246,582 2.7
80-84 837 19,901,904,422 4.2
85+ 677 7,705,924,745 8.8
Total*39,543 2,195,141,011,613 1.8

Crash types

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.

Passenger vehicle drivers in fatal crashes by age and crash type, 2010
AgeMultiple-vehicle intersection crashesOther multiple-vehicle crashes Single-vehicle intersection crashes Other single-vehicle crashes All crashes*
Number%Number%Number%Number%Number%
16-19 679 21 1,051 33 136 4 1,354 42 3,220 100
20-24 826 17 1,799 36 259 5 2,121 42 5,005 100
25-29 673 17 1,462 38 189 5 1,554 40 3,878 100
30-34 536 17 1,247 40 132 4 1,217 39 3,132 100
35-39 509 18 1,141 41 115 4 987 36 2,752 100
40-44 502 19 1,124 42 120 4 959 35 2,705 100
45-49 508 19 1,152 42 108 4 964 35 2,732 100
50-54 497 20 1,029 41 124 5 848 34 2,498 100
55-59 469 21 954 43 101 5 707 32 2,231 100
60-64 383 21 792 43 89 5 557 31 1,821 100
65-69 313 22 610 44 74 5 398 29 1,395 100
70-74 299 29 419 40 52 5 275 26 1,045 100
75-79 296 30 367 38 42 4 267 27 972 100
80-84 294 36 288 35 47 6 199 24 828 100
≥85 315 42 216 29 38 5 182 24 751 100

Pedestrian

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.

Pedestrian deaths per 100,000 people by age and gender, 2010
AgeMaleFemaleTotal
PopulationDeathsRatePopulationDeathsRatePopulationDeaths*Rate
<13 27,048,470 130 0.5 25,894,748 79 0.3 52,943,218 209 0.4
13-15 6,417,479 52 0.8 6,109,336 32 0.5 12,526,815 84 0.7
16-19 9,126,644 148 1.6 8,670,879 60 0.7 17,797,523 208 1.2
20-24 11,014,176 256 2.3 10,571,823 95 0.9 21,585,999 351 1.6
25-29 10,635,591 233 2.2 10,466,258 95 0.9 21,101,849 328 1.6
30-34 9,996,500 210 2.1 9,965,599 61 0.6 19,962,099 271 1.4
35-39 10,042,022 188 1.9 10,137,620 93 0.9 20,179,642 281 1.4
40-44 10,393,977 202 1.9 10,496,987 90 0.9 20,890,964 292 1.4
45-49 11,209,085 286 2.6 11,499,506 108 0.9 22,708,591 394 1.7
50-54 10,933,274 294 2.7 11,364,851 110 1.0 22,298,125 404 1.8
55-59 9,523,648 263 2.8 10,141,157 105 1.0 19,664,805 368 1.9
60-64 8,077,500 171 2.1 8,740,424 76 0.9 16,817,924 247 1.5
65-69 5,852,547 133 2.3 6,582,716 68 1.0 12,435,263 201 1.6
70-74 4,243,972 94 2.2 5,034,194 66 1.3 9,278,166 160 1.7
75-79 3,182,388 107 3.4 4,135,407 64 1.5 7,317,795 171 2.3
80-84 2,294,374 79 3.4 3,448,953 75 2.2 5,743,327 155 2.7
≥85 1,789,679 86 4.8 3,703,754 53 1.4 5,493,433 139 2.5

Alcohol

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.

Fatally injured passenger vehicle drivers with BAC ≥ 0.08 percent by age, 2010
AgeDrivers killedEstimated drivers killed with BACs ≥ 0.08
NumberNumber%
16-59 12,037 4,797 40
60-69 1,581 260 16
≥70 2,320 140 6

References