Older people | 2017

In 2016, motor vehicle crashes accounted for less than 1 percent of fatalities among people 70 and older. National Center for Injury Prevention and Control. 2017. Web-based Injury Statistics Query and Reporting System (WISQARS), 2016 Unintentional Fatal Injury Data for 10 Leading Causes of Deaths, Ages 70 - 85+, All Races, Both Sexes. Atlanta, GA: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Available: https://webappa.cdc.gov/sasweb/ncipc/leadcause.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 2018.

Trends

A total of 4,974 people ages 70 and older died in motor vehicle crashes in 2017. This is 15 percent fewer than in 1997, when deaths peaked, but a 32 percent increase since 1975. Deaths of older people increased 3 percent from 2016 to 2017. The rate of fatalities per capita among older people has decreased 44 percent since 1975.

Motor vehicle crash deaths per 100,000 people 70 years and older, 1975-2017
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 32,442,777 4,848 14.9
2017 34,022,298 4,974 14.6

Seventy-five percent of people 70 and older killed in motor vehicle crashes in 2017 were passenger vehicle occupants, and 16 percent were pedestrians. Since 1997, deaths of older passenger vehicle occupants have declined 22 percent, and deaths of older pedestrians have declined 13 percent. Although few older adults are killed while riding motorcycles, this number has risen. More than 8 times as many motorcyclists 70 years and older were killed in 2017 than in 1997.

Motor vehicle crash deaths among people 70 and older, 1975-2017
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 9<1 106 3 3,896
1977 2,370 61 1,383 36 14<1 92 2 3,859
1978 2,515 66 1,214 32 16<1 79 2 3,824
1979 2,391 63 1,277 34 16<1 88 2 3,772
1980 2,399 62 1,344 35 21 1 97 3 3,861
1981 2,495 64 1,278 33 22 1 76 2 3,871
1982 2,430 66 1,124 31 16<1 85 2 3,655
1983 2,547 68 1,081 29 29 1 77 2 3,734
1984 2,764 68 1,164 29 32 1 92 2 4,052
1985 2,933 70 1,170 28 17<1 86 2 4,206
1986 3,166 71 1,157 26 18<1 104 2 4,445
1987 3,276 72 1,160 25 23 1 96 2 4,555
1988 3,540 72 1,271 26 29 1 85 2 4,925
1989 3,658 74 1,180 24 14<1 91 2 4,943
1990 3,525 73 1,195 25 26 1 98 2 4,844
1991 3,690 76 1,044 22 22<1 87 2 4,843
1992 3,801 78 997 20 18<1 85 2 4,901
1993 4,076 78 1,012 19 30 1 103 2 5,221
1994 4,291 79 1,021 19 25<1 88 2 5,425
1995 4,368 79 1,008 18 16<1 117 2 5,509
1996 4,492 81 951 17 24<1 111 2 5,578
1997 4,748 81 931 16 27<1 166 3 5,872
1998 4,683 81 965 17 28<1 122 2 5,798
1999 4,587 81 885 16 30 1 155 3 5,657
2000 4,406 82 807 15 42 1 124 2 5,379
2001 4,389 81 878 16 42 1 116 2 5,425
2002 4,287 80 845 16 50 1 150 3 5,332
2003 4,377 82 777 14 56 1 153 3 5,363
2004 4,113 81 763 15 48 1 182 4 5,106
2005 4,016 80 777 15 79 2 175 3 5,047
2006 3,681 79 707 15 76 2 172 4 4,636
2007 3,661 79 726 16 89 2 155 3 4,631
2008 3,401 79 603 14 127 3 160 4 4,291
2009 3,194 80 578 14 91 2 132 3 3,995
2010 3,246 78 628 15 137 3 160 4 4,171
2011 3,109 76 637 16 147 4 178 4 4,071
2012 3,081 75 707 17 150 4 175 4 4,113
2013 3,123 75 666 16 177 4 184 4 4,150
2014 3,136 75 729 17 139 3 202 5 4,206
2015 3,346 76 719 16 164 4 198 4 4,427
2016 3,586 74 822 17 207 4 233 5 4,848
2017 3,722 75 806 16 230 5 216 4 4,974

In 2017, 59 percent of the deaths in crashes involving passenger vehicle drivers 70 and older were the older drivers themselves, and 13 percent were their passengers. Twenty-eight 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, 19 percent were their passengers, and 42 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, 2017
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 5,192 39 9,677 47 2,774 59
   Passengers 2,560 19 2,764 13 619 13
Deaths of other passenger vehicle occupants 2,886 21 3,148 15 547 12
Motorcyclists, bicyclists and pedestrians 2,820 21 5,152 25 732 16
Total* 13,532 100 20,862 100 4,689 100

Population and mileage rates

In 2017, motor vehicle crash death rates per capita increased among males starting at ages 70-74 and among females gradually beginning at ages 65-69. 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, 2017
AgeMaleFemaleTotal
PopulationDeathsRatePopulationDeathsRatePopulationDeaths*Rate
<16 33,267,990 755 2.3 31,868,122 578 1.8 65,136,112 1,333 2.0
16-19 8,701,682 1,576 18.1 8,315,418 762 9.2 17,017,100 2,340 13.8
20-24 11,349,142 2,983 26.3 10,769,493 1,088 10.1 22,118,635 4,072 18.4
25-29 11,902,230 2,838 23.8 11,468,230 930 8.1 23,370,460 3,770 16.1
30-34 11,089,131 2,237 20.2 10,883,081 737 6.8 21,972,212 2,975 13.5
35-39 10,615,985 2,000 18.8 10,616,012 669 6.3 21,231,997 2,669 12.6
40-44 9,753,115 1,718 17.6 9,890,258 668 6.8 19,643,373 2,387 12.2
45-49 10,386,175 1,848 17.8 10,587,683 701 6.6 20,973,858 2,551 12.2
50-54 10,520,182 2,050 19.5 10,880,912 722 6.6 21,401,094 2,772 13.0
55-59 10,700,520 2,171 20.3 11,307,436 733 6.5 22,007,956 2,907 13.2
60-64 9,557,283 1,785 18.7 10,430,419 647 6.2 19,987,702 2,434 12.2
65-69 7,929,868 1,237 15.6 8,906,513 573 6.4 16,836,381 1,810 10.8
70-74 5,947,272 974 16.4 6,899,793 490 7.1 12,847,065 1,464 11.4
75-79 3,898,816 811 20.8 4,842,445 510 10.5 8,741,261 1,321 15.1
80-84 2,509,059 640 25.5 3,456,231 400 11.6 5,965,290 1,040 17.4
≥85 2,279,669 686 30.1 4,189,013 463 11.1 6,468,682 1,149 17.8

In 2017, 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. 2018. [Unpublished analysis of 2017 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, 2017
AgeCrash involvementsMilesRate
16-19 2,928 62,410,423,548 4.7
20-24 5,303 172,158,820,127 3.1
25-29 4,925 213,487,256,997 2.3
30-34 3,938 228,055,122,817 1.7
35-39 3,473 235,513,924,779 1.5
40-44 2,847 221,981,057,921 1.3
45-49 2,992 211,720,351,245 1.4
50-54 2,837 229,997,362,385 1.2
55-59 2,843 216,227,224,007 1.3
60-64 2,390 195,073,278,082 1.2
65-69 1,866 149,557,419,942 1.2
70-74 1,545 87,458,953,733 1.8
75-79 1,183 51,982,073,748 2.3
80-84 881 20,669,598,896 4.3
≥85 863 11,313,581,400 7.6
Total* 41,221 2,308,667,778,627 1.8

Crash types

Among passenger vehicle drivers involved in fatal crashes in 2017, the proportion in multiple-vehicle crashes at intersections increased steadily starting at ages 65-69. Multiple-vehicle crashes at intersections accounted for 40 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, 2017
AgeMultiple-vehicle intersection crashesOther multiple-vehicle crashes Single-vehicle intersection crashes Other single-vehicle crashes All crashes*
Number%Number%Number%Number%Number%
16-19 667 23 1,013 35 138 5 1,113 38 2,931 100
20-24 1,003 19 2,104 40 245 5 1,963 37 5,315 100
25-29 970 20 1,987 40 266 5 1,722 35 4,945 100
30-34 845 21 1,671 42 198 5 1,254 32 3,968 100
35-39 691 20 1,464 42 199 6 1,140 33 3,494 100
40-44 597 21 1,268 44 120 4 872 31 2,857 100
45-49 592 20 1,323 44 169 6 924 31 3,008 100
50-54 591 21 1,232 43 149 5 870 31 2,842 100
55-59 638 22 1,187 42 148 5 875 31 2,848 100
60-64 524 22 1,020 43 127 5 727 30 2,398 100
65-69 468 25 798 43 97 5 505 27 1,868 100
70-74 451 29 586 38 81 5 431 28 1,549 100
75-79 376 32 428 36 63 5 316 27 1,183 100
80-84 332 38 291 33 52 6 206 23 881 100
≥85 372 43 271 31 47 5 173 20 863 100

Pedestrians

The rate of pedestrian deaths per 100,000 population in 2017 was highest for people ages 80-84. 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, 2017
AgeMaleFemaleTotal
PopulationDeathsRatePopulationDeathsRatePopulationDeaths*Rate
<13 26,944,870 101 0.4 25,794,062 69 0.3 52,738,932 170 0.3
13-15 6,323,120 47 0.7 6,074,060 29 0.5 12,397,180 76 0.6
16-19 8,701,682 139 1.6 8,315,418 70 0.8 17,017,100 209 1.2
20-24 11,349,142 294 2.6 10,769,493 95 0.9 22,118,635 389 1.8
25-29 11,902,230 338 2.8 11,468,230 128 1.1 23,370,460 468 2.0
30-34 11,089,131 314 2.8 10,883,081 108 1.0 21,972,212 422 1.9
35-39 10,615,985 295 2.8 10,616,012 143 1.3 21,231,997 438 2.1
40-44 9,753,115 287 2.9 9,890,258 115 1.2 19,643,373 402 2.0
45-49 10,386,175 326 3.1 10,587,683 149 1.4 20,973,858 476 2.3
50-54 10,520,182 422 4.0 10,880,912 150 1.4 21,401,094 572 2.7
55-59 10,700,520 455 4.3 11,307,436 162 1.4 22,007,956 618 2.8
60-64 9,557,283 364 3.8 10,430,419 133 1.3 19,987,702 498 2.5
65-69 7,929,868 232 2.9 8,906,513 127 1.4 16,836,381 359 2.1
70-74 5,947,272 162 2.7 6,899,793 76 1.1 12,847,065 238 1.9
75-79 3,898,816 144 3.7 4,842,445 93 1.9 8,741,261 237 2.7
80-84 2,509,059 111 4.4 3,456,231 60 1.7 5,965,290 171 2.9
≥85 2,279,669 107 4.7 4,189,013 53 1.3 6,468,682 160 2.5

Alcohol

Eight percent of fatally injured passenger vehicle drivers 70 years and older in 2017 had blood alcohol concentrations (BACs) at or above 0.08 percent, compared with 18 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, 2017
AgeDrivers killedEstimated drivers killed with BACs ≥ 0.08
NumberNumber%
16-59 years 12,818 4,475 35
60-69 years 2,020 361 18
≥70 years 2,774 219 8

References