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Fatality Facts 2021Older people

Overview

In 2020, motor vehicle crashes accounted for less than 1 percent of fatalities among people 70 and older. National Center for Injury Prevention and Control. (2021). Web-based injury statistics query and reporting system (WISQARS): 2020 unintentional fatal injury data for 10 leading causes of deaths, ages 70-85+, all races, both sexes. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. .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 .Posted May 2023.

Population and mileage rates

Looked at by age group, 2021 motor vehicle crash death rates begin increasing for males at ages 75-79 and females at age 70-74. Males had substantially higher death rates than females for ages 16 and older.
Motor vehicle crash deaths per 100,000 people by age and sex, 2021
Motor vehicle crash deaths per 100,000 people by age and sex, 2021
AgeMaleFemaleTotal
PopulationDeathsRatePopulationDeathsRatePopulationDeaths*Rate
<16 33,217,260 776 2.3 31,705,336 597 1.9 64,922,596 1,380 2.1
16-19 8,794,449 1,780 20.2 8,414,291 815 9.7 17,208,740 2,600 15.1
20-24 10,973,238 3,092 28.2 10,550,759 1,184 11.2 21,523,997 4,283 19.9
25-29 11,379,058 3,225 28.3 11,013,419 1,080 9.8 22,392,477 4,310 19.2
30-34 11,674,304 3,073 26.3 11,428,324 1,054 9.2 23,102,628 4,138 17.9
35-39 11,263,833 2,596 23.0 11,035,485 973 8.8 22,299,318 3,572 16.0
40-44 10,593,780 2,335 22.0 10,510,756 801 7.6 21,104,536 3,144 14.9
45-49 9,875,757 2,049 20.7 9,905,753 679 6.9 19,781,510 2,735 13.8
50-54 10,436,202 2,274 21.8 10,470,724 775 7.4 20,906,926 3,054 14.6
55-59 10,630,059 2,331 21.9 10,937,255 747 6.8 21,567,314 3,080 14.3
60-64 10,333,259 2,170 21.0 10,902,491 744 6.8 21,235,750 2,925 13.8
65-69 8,748,213 1,665 19.0 9,646,107 611 6.3 18,394,320 2,280 12.4
70-74 7,120,873 1,198 16.8 8,150,929 577 7.1 15,271,802 1,779 11.6
75-79 4,472,410 862 19.3 5,432,359 512 9.4 9,904,769 1,375 13.9
80-84 2,696,104 622 23.1 3,605,202 372 10.3 6,301,306 996 15.8
≥85 2,175,943 578 26.6 3,799,813 478 12.6 5,975,756 1,059 17.7

In 2016-17, the rate of passenger vehicle driver fatal crash involvements per 100 million miles traveled began to increase at ages 70-74. Drivers 85 and older had the highest rate of fatal crash involvement.Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. (2020). [Unpublished analysis of April 1, 2016 - March 31, 2017 data from the U.S. Department of Transportation's Fatality Analysis Reporting System and the National Household Travel Survey]. 

Passenger vehicle fatal crash involvements per 100 million miles traveled by driver age, April 1, 2016 - March 31, 2017
Passenger vehicle fatal crash rates per 100 million miles traveled, by driver age, April 1, 2016 - March 31, 2017
AgeCrash involvementsMilesRate
16-19 3,023 62,410,423,548 4.8
20-24 5,615 172,158,820,127 3.3
25-29 4,963 213,487,256,997 2.3
30-34 4,052 228,055,122,817 1.8
35-39 3,290 235,513,924,779 1.4
40-44 2,933 221,981,057,921 1.3
45-49 2,868 211,720,351,245 1.4
50-54 2,954 229,997,362,385 1.3
55-59 2,791 216,227,224,007 1.3
60-64 2,397 195,073,278,082 1.2
65-69 2,003 149,557,419,942 1.3
70-74 1,468 87,458,953,733 1.7
75-79 1,094 51,982,073,748 2.1
80-84 882 20,669,598,896 4.3
≥85 858 11,313,581,400 7.6
Total* 41,234 2,307,606,449,627 1.8

Crash types

Among passenger vehicle drivers involved in fatal crashes in 2021, the proportion in multiple-vehicle crashes at intersections increases steadily with age starting at 65-69. Multiple-vehicle crashes at intersections accounted for 39 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, 2021
AgeMultiple-vehicle intersection crashesOther multiple-vehicle crashes Single-vehicle intersection crashes Other single-vehicle crashes All crashes*
Number%Number%Number%Number%Number%
16-19 773 23 1,283 37 141 4 1,227 36 3,424 100
20-24 1,177 20 2,409 41 295 5 2,047 35 5,928 100
25-29 1,064 19 2,398 43 282 5 1,815 33 5,559 100
30-34 952 18 2,306 45 224 4 1,669 32 5,151 100
35-39 843 19 1,997 46 175 4 1,364 31 4,379 100
40-44 706 19 1,640 45 190 5 1,092 30 3,628 100
45-49 645 21 1,395 45 148 5 886 29 3,074 100
50-54 624 19 1,513 47 162 5 944 29 3,243 100
55-59 656 21 1,439 47 136 4 856 28 3,087 100
60-64 596 22 1,182 43 136 5 822 30 2,736 100
65-69 554 26 927 44 98 5 540 25 2,119 100
70-74 455 27 714 42 75 4 461 27 1,705 100
75-79 392 30 544 41 51 4 341 26 1,328 100
80-84 324 36 332 37 34 4 202 23 892 100
≥85 333 41 279 35 29 4 165 20 806 100

Pedestrians

Among adults 70 and older, the rate of pedestrian deaths per 100,000 population in 2021 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 sex, 2021
AgeMaleFemaleTotal
PopulationDeathsRatePopulationDeathsRatePopulationDeaths*Rate
<13 26,442,279 81 0.3 25,248,817 56 0.2 51,691,096 139 0.3
13-15 6,774,981 27 0.4 6,456,519 25 0.4 13,231,500 53 0.4
16-19 8,794,449 131 1.5 8,414,291 62 0.7 17,208,740 193 1.1
20-24 10,973,238 299 2.7 10,550,759 134 1.3 21,523,997 435 2.0
25-29 11,379,058 435 3.8 11,013,419 170 1.5 22,392,477 606 2.7
30-34 11,674,304 513 4.4 11,428,324 191 1.7 23,102,628 706 3.1
35-39 11,263,833 478 4.2 11,035,485 215 1.9 22,299,318 694 3.1
40-44 10,593,780 455 4.3 10,510,756 171 1.6 21,104,536 630 3.0
45-49 9,875,757 378 3.8 9,905,753 144 1.5 19,781,510 526 2.7
50-54 10,436,202 417 4.0 10,470,724 158 1.5 20,906,926 579 2.8
55-59 10,630,059 491 4.6 10,937,255 176 1.6 21,567,314 667 3.1
60-64 10,333,259 492 4.8 10,902,491 178 1.6 21,235,750 676 3.2
65-69 8,748,213 382 4.4 9,646,107 146 1.5 18,394,320 529 2.9
70-74 7,120,873 231 3.2 8,150,929 115 1.4 15,271,802 348 2.3
75-79 4,472,410 133 3.0 5,432,359 83 1.5 9,904,769 216 2.2
80-84 2,696,104 98 3.6 3,605,202 65 1.8 6,301,306 163 2.6
≥85 2,175,943 71 3.3 3,799,813 47 1.2 5,975,756 119 2.0

Alcohol

Ten percent of fatally injured passenger vehicle drivers 70 years and older in 2021 had blood alcohol concentrations (BACs) at or above 0.08 percent, compared with 20 percent for drivers ages 60-69 and 36 percent for drivers ages 16-59.
Fatally injured passenger vehicle drivers with BAC ≥ 0.08 percent by age, 2021
AgeDrivers killedEstimated drivers killed with BACs ≥ 0.08
NumberNumber%
16-59 years 15,000 5,358 36
60-69 years 2,331 460 20
≥70 years 2,853 279 10
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