Older people | 2016

In 2015, motor vehicle crashes accounted for less than 1 percent of fatalities among people 70 and older. National Center for Injury Prevention and Control. 2016. Web-based Injury Statistics Query and Reporting System (WISQARS), 2015 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. Cicchino, J.B. 2015. Why have fatality rates among older drivers declined? The relative contributions of changes in survivability and crash involvement. Accident Analysis and Prevention 83:67-73.

The following facts are based on analysis of data from the U.S. Department of Transportation's Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS).

Posted December 2017.

Trends

A total of 4,792 people ages 70 and older died in motor vehicle crashes in 2016. This is 18 percent fewer than in 1997, when deaths peaked, but a 27 percent increase since 1975. Deaths of older people increased 8 percent from 2015 to 2016. The rate of fatalities per capita among older people has decreased 43 percent since 1975.

Motor vehicle crash deaths per 100,000 people 70 years and older, 1975-2016
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 4,071 14.3
2012 29,168,003 4,113 14.1
2013 30,095,357 4,150 13.8
2014 30,917,945 4,206 13.6
2015 31,693,384 4,427 14.0
2016 32,424,112 4,792 14.8

Seventy-four percent of people 70 and older killed in motor vehicle crashes in 2016 were passenger vehicle occupants, and 17 percent were pedestrians.  Since 1997, deaths of older passenger vehicle occupants have declined 25 percent, and deaths of older pedestrians have declined 14 percent. Although few older adults are killed while riding motorcycles, this number has risen. Nearly 8 times as many motorcyclists 70 years and older were killed in 2016 than in 1997.

Motor vehicle crash deaths among people 70 and older, 1975-2016
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 3,109 76 637 16 120 3 205 5 4,071
2012 3,081 75 707 17 131 3 194 5 4,113
2013 3,123 75 666 16 152 4 209 5 4,150
2014 3,136 75 729 17 124 3 217 5 4,206
2015 3,346 76 719 16 141 3 221 5 4,427
2016 3,550 74 805 17 164 3 273 6 4,792

In 2016, 59 percent of the deaths in crashes involving passenger vehicle drivers 70 and older were the older drivers themselves, and 15 percent were their passengers. Twenty-six 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, 39 percent of the deaths were the drivers younger than 30, 20 percent were their passengers, and 41 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, 2016
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 5,438 39 9,457 46 2,632 59
   Passengers 2,702 20 2,760 13 680 15
Deaths of other passenger vehicle occupants 2,919 21 3,194 16 491 11
Motorcyclists, bicyclists and pedestrians 2,745 20 5,049 25 685 15
Total* 13,884 100 20,597 100 4,507 100

Population and mileage rates

In 2016, motor vehicle crash death rates per capita increased among males at ages 75-79 and among females gradually beginning at ages 60-64. Males had substantially higher death rates than females for ages 16 and older.

Motor vehicle crash deaths per 100,000 people by age and gender, 2016
AgeMaleFemaleTotal
PopulationDeathsRatePopulationDeathsRatePopulationDeaths*Rate
<16 33,277,658 783 2.4 31,894,402 647 2.0 65,172,060 1,430 2.2
16-19 8,659,696 1,608 18.6 8,273,312 804 9.7 16,933,008 2,413 14.3
20-24 11,491,065 3,216 28.0 10,889,963 1,160 10.7 22,381,028 4,379 19.6
25-29 11,631,474 2,830 24.3 11,259,410 958 8.5 22,890,884 3,789 16.6
30-34 10,968,264 2,254 20.6 10,818,095 847 7.8 21,786,359 3,102 14.2
35-39 10,376,442 1,908 18.4 10,397,463 655 6.3 20,773,905 2,565 12.3
40-44 9,776,321 1,815 18.6 9,919,930 605 6.1 19,696,251 2,420 12.3
45-49 10,375,955 1,796 17.3 10,571,668 667 6.3 20,947,623 2,463 11.8
50-54 10,730,184 2,080 19.4 11,108,872 774 7.0 21,839,056 2,854 13.1
55-59 10,683,406 2,103 19.7 11,296,702 669 5.9 21,980,108 2,774 12.6
60-64 9,315,632 1,747 18.8 10,167,404 641 6.3 19,483,036 2,389 12.3
65-69 7,936,919 1,372 17.3 8,883,164 600 6.8 16,820,083 1,972 11.7
70-74 5,454,190 942 17.3 6,356,057 498 7.8 11,810,247 1,440 12.2
75-79 3,723,619 736 19.8 4,644,276 452 9.7 8,367,895 1,188 14.2
80-84 2,453,255 619 25.2 3,412,384 432 12.7 5,865,639 1,052 17.9
≥85 2,224,843 648 29.1 4,155,488 464 11.2 6,380,331 1,112 17.4

In 2008, the rate of passenger vehicle driver fatal crash involvements per 100 million miles traveled began to increase noticeably at ages 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 2016, the proportion in multiple-vehicle crashes at intersections increased steadily starting at ages 60-64. Multiple-vehicle crashes at intersections accounted for 42 percent of fatal crash involvements among drivers 80 and older, compared with 20 percent for drivers ages 16-59.

Passenger vehicle drivers in fatal crashes by age and crash type, 2016
AgeMultiple-vehicle intersection crashesOther multiple-vehicle crashes Single-vehicle intersection crashes Other single-vehicle crashes All crashes*
Number%Number%Number%Number%Number%
16-19 649 22 976 32 132 4 1,251 42 3,008 100
20-24 1,072 19 2,042 37 305 5 2,159 39 5,578 100
25-29 917 19 1,986 41 246 5 1,742 36 4,891 100
30-34 762 19 1,671 42 193 5 1,384 35 4,010 100
35-39 635 20 1,369 42 150 5 1,069 33 3,223 100
40-44 624 21 1,259 43 183 6 889 30 2,955 100
45-49 558 20 1,228 44 146 5 848 31 2,780 100
50-54 606 21 1,232 42 172 6 897 31 2,907 100
55-59 600 22 1,117 42 152 6 807 30 2,676 100
60-64 575 25 943 40 126 5 696 30 2,340 100
65-69 498 25 796 41 102 5 563 29 1,959 100
70-74 416 29 582 40 74 5 372 26 1,444 100
75-79 357 33 367 34 54 5 290 27 1,068 100
80-84 356 40 287 33 43 5 196 22 882 100
≥85 372 43 261 30 38 4 187 22 858 100

Pedestrians

The rate of pedestrian deaths per 100,000 population in 2016 was highest for people ages 50-54 and 80-84, especially among males in these age groups (4.2 and 4.4 deaths per 100,000 people, respectively). 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, 2016
AgeMaleFemaleTotal
PopulationDeathsRatePopulationDeathsRatePopulationDeaths*Rate
<13 26,952,933 114 0.4 25,818,702 81 0.3 52,771,635 195 0.4
13-15 6,324,725 53 0.8 6,075,700 33 0.5 12,400,425 86 0.7
16-19 8,659,696 154 1.8 8,273,312 79 1.0 16,933,008 233 1.4
20-24 11,491,065 323 2.8 10,889,963 119 1.1 22,381,028 443 2.0
25-29 11,631,474 323 2.8 11,259,410 127 1.1 22,890,884 450 2.0
30-34 10,968,264 301 2.7 10,818,095 132 1.2 21,786,359 433 2.0
35-39 10,376,442 286 2.8 10,397,463 121 1.2 20,773,905 408 2.0
40-44 9,776,321 298 3.0 9,919,930 110 1.1 19,696,251 408 2.1
45-49 10,375,955 303 2.9 10,571,668 123 1.2 20,947,623 426 2.0
50-54 10,730,184 453 4.2 11,108,872 172 1.5 21,839,056 625 2.9
55-59 10,683,406 431 4.0 11,296,702 151 1.3 21,980,108 583 2.7
60-64 9,315,632 350 3.8 10,167,404 121 1.2 19,483,036 471 2.4
65-69 7,936,919 253 3.2 8,883,164 100 1.1 16,820,083 353 2.1
70-74 5,454,190 183 3.4 6,356,057 83 1.3 11,810,247 266 2.3
75-79 3,723,619 137 3.7 4,644,276 89 1.9 8,367,895 226 2.7
80-84 2,453,255 107 4.4 3,412,384 64 1.9 5,865,639 172 2.9
≥85 2,224,843 80 3.6 4,155,488 61 1.5 6,380,331 141 2.2

Alcohol

Seven percent of fatally injured passenger vehicle drivers 70 years and older in 2016 had blood alcohol concentrations (BACs) at or above 0.08 percent, compared with 17 percent for drivers ages 60-69 and 35 percent for drivers ages 16-59.

Fatally injured passenger vehicle drivers with BAC ≥ 0.08 percent by age, 2016
AgeDrivers killedEstimated drivers killed with BACs ≥ 0.08
NumberNumber%
16-59 years 12,818 4,503 35
60-69 years 2,042 340 17
≥70 years 2,632 172 7

References