Older people | 2011

In 2010, motor vehicle crashes accounted for less than 1 percent of fatalities among people 70 and older. National Center for Injury Prevention and Control. 2013. 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 4,052 people ages 70 and older died in motor vehicle crashes in 2011. This is 31 percent fewer than in 1997, when deaths peaked, but a 7 percent increase since 1975. Deaths of older people were 3 percent lower in 2011 than in 2010. The rate of fatalities per capita among older people has decreased 45 percent since 1975 and is now at its lowest level.

Motor vehicle crash deaths per 100,000 people 70 years and older, 1975-2011
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 4,171 15.0
2011 28,520,353 4,052 14.2

Seventy-six percent of people 70 and older killed in motor vehicle crashes in 2011 were passenger vehicle occupants, and 16 percent were pedestrians.  Since 1997, deaths of older passenger vehicle occupants have declined 35 percent, while deaths of older pedestrians have declined 32 percent. Although few older adults are killed while riding motorcycles, this number has risen. Almost 6 times as many motorcyclists 70 years and older were killed in 2011 than in 1997.

Motor vehicle crash deaths among people 70 and older, 1975-2011
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 3,246 78 628 15 121 3 176 4 4,171
2011 3,097 76 631 16 120 3 204 5 4,052

In 2011, 62 percent of the deaths in crashes involving passenger vehicle drivers 70 and older were the older driver themselves, and 15 percent were their passengers. Twenty-three percent of deaths were occupants of other vehicles or motorcyclists, bicyclists or pedestrians. In contrast, in crashes involving at least one passenger vehicle driver younger than 30, 42 percent of the deaths were the drivers younger than 30, 23 percent were their passengers, and 35 percent were occupants of other vehicles or motorcyclists, bicyclists, or pedestrians.

Deaths in crashes involving passenger vehicle drivers younger than 30, ages 30-69, and 70 and older, by type of road user, 2011
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 5,061 42 8,148 47 2,292 62
   -Passengers 2,726 23 2,482 14 551 15
Deaths of other passenger vehicle occupants 2,144 18 2,702 16 388 10
Motorcyclists, bicyclists and pedestrians 2,169 18 3,829 22 472 13
Total* 12,162 100 17,255 100 3,714 100

Population and mileage rates

In 2011, motor vehicle crash death rates per capita increased at ages 70-75 among males and at ages 65-69 among females. Across all age groups, males had substantially higher death rates than females.

Motor vehicle crash deaths per 100,000 people by age and gender, 2011
AgeMaleFemaleTotal
PopulationDeathsRatePopulationDeathsRatePopulationDeaths*Rate
<16 33,400,220 757 2.3 31,957,722 584 1.8 65,357,942 1,341 2.1
16-19 8,989,443 1,723 19.2 8,497,764 868 10.2 17,487,207 2,592 14.8
20-24 11,312,700 3,074 27.2 10,841,132 1,025 9.5 22,153,832 4,100 18.5
25-29 10,761,515 2,312 21.5 10,518,279 764 7.3 21,279,794 3,077 14.5
30-34 10,282,648 1,793 17.4 10,228,056 627 6.1 20,510,704 2,420 11.8
35-39 9,761,311 1,554 15.9 9,832,998 541 5.5 19,594,309 2,095 10.7
40-44 10,462,159 1,612 15.4 10,571,486 616 5.8 21,033,645 2,228 10.6
45-49 10,952,701 1,816 16.6 11,205,304 627 5.6 22,158,005 2,443 11.0
50-54 11,066,546 1,961 17.7 11,493,652 673 5.9 22,560,198 2,634 11.7
55-59 9,816,051 1,632 16.6 10,439,497 520 5.0 20,255,548 2,152 10.6
60-64 8,542,154 1,326 15.5 9,264,438 498 5.4 17,806,592 1,824 10.2
65-69 6,071,930 882 14.5 6,801,858 467 6.9 12,873,788 1,349 10.5
70-74 4,404,383 744 16.9 5,203,567 438 8.4 9,607,950 1,182 12.3
75-79 3,232,738 603 18.7 4,155,949 422 10.2 7,388,687 1,025 13.9
80-84 2,340,295 533 22.8 3,446,248 377 10.9 5,786,543 910 15.7
≥85 1,894,025 499 26.3 3,843,148 436 11.3 5,737,173 935 16.3

In 2008, the rate of passenger vehicle driver 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. 2013. [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
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 2011, 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 with 18 percent for drivers ages 20-49.

Passenger vehicle drivers in fatal crashes by age and crash type, 2011
AgeMultiple-vehicle intersection crashesOther multiple-vehicle crashes Single-vehicle intersection crashes Other single-vehicle crashes All crashes*
Number%Number%Number%Number%Number%
16-19 589 20 926 31 132 4 1,325 45 2,972 100
20-24 859 18 1,711 35 267 5 2,061 42 4,898 100
25-29 675 18 1,378 36 214 6 1,538 40 3,805 100
30-34 604 19 1,240 39 187 6 1,172 37 3,203 100
35-39 479 18 1,063 41 136 5 921 35 2,599 100
40-44 516 19 1,079 41 140 5 917 35 2,652 100
45-49 531 20 1,100 41 144 5 914 34 2,689 100
50-54 540 21 1,048 41 112 4 836 33 2,536 100
55-59 467 22 886 42 91 4 679 32 2,123 100
60-64 428 24 727 40 100 5 565 31 1,820 100
65-69 318 24 531 40 81 6 413 31 1,343 100
70-74 315 28 442 39 44 4 335 29 1,136 100
75-79 308 33 334 36 39 4 240 26 921 100
80-84 268 34 284 36 34 4 193 25 779 100
≥85 308 44 214 31 33 5 144 21 699 100

Pedestrians

The rate of pedestrian deaths per 100,000 people in 2011 was generally higher for people 75 and older than for people younger than 75, although the rate for people ages 50-54 was similar to that of older people. The rate was especially high among males ages 85 and older (3.7 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, 2011
AgeMaleFemaleTotal
PopulationDeathsRatePopulationDeathsRatePopulationDeaths*Rate
<13 27,051,867 105 0.4 25,898,241 66 0.3 52,950,108 171 0.3
13-15 6,348,353 57 0.9 6,059,481 36 0.6 12,407,834 93 0.7
16-19 8,989,443 136 1.5 8,497,764 65 0.8 17,487,207 201 1.1
20-24 11,312,700 269 2.4 10,841,132 87 0.8 22,153,832 356 1.6
25-29 10,761,515 233 2.2 10,518,279 110 1.0 21,279,794 343 1.6
30-34 10,282,648 199 1.9 10,228,056 83 0.8 20,510,704 282 1.4
35-39 9,761,311 193 2.0 9,832,998 84 0.9 19,594,309 277 1.4
40-44 10,462,159 199 1.9 10,571,486 88 0.8 21,033,645 287 1.4
45-49 10,952,701 294 2.7 11,205,304 115 1.0 22,158,005 409 1.8
50-54 11,066,546 368 3.3 11,493,652 119 1.0 22,560,198 487 2.2
55-59 9,816,051 278 2.8 10,439,497 78 0.7 20,255,548 356 1.8
60-64 8,542,154 214 2.5 9,264,438 86 0.9 17,806,592 300 1.7
65-69 6,071,930 142 2.3 6,801,858 72 1.1 12,873,788 214 1.7
70-74 4,404,383 124 2.8 5,203,567 71 1.4 9,607,950 195 2.0
75-79 3,232,738 104 3.2 4,155,949 73 1.8 7,388,687 177 2.4
80-84 2,340,295 81 3.5 3,446,248 48 1.4 5,786,543 129 2.2
≥85 1,894,025 71 3.7 3,843,148 59 1.5 5,737,173 130 2.3

Alcohol

Six percent of fatally injured passenger vehicle drivers 70 years and older in 2011 had blood alcohol concentrations (BACs) at or above 0.08 percent, compared with 17 percent for drivers ages 60-69 and 40 percent for drivers ages 16-59.

Fatally injured passenger vehicle drivers with BAC ≥ 0.08 percent by age, 2011
AgeDrivers killedEstimated drivers killed with BACs ≥ 0.08
NumberNumber%
16-59 11,608 4,626 40
60-69 1,577 269 17
≥70 2,292 142 6

References