Auto and Road User Journal
Auto and Road User Journal
April 15, 1998
TranSafety, Inc.
(U.S. and Canada)
(360) 683-6276
Fax: (360) 335-6402

Older Population
Traffic Safety Facts 1996

U.S. Department of Transportation
National Highway Traffic Safety Administration

There are approximately 24 million people age 70 years and older in the United States. In 1996, this age group made up 9 percent of the total U.S. resident population, compared with 8 percent in 1986. From 1986 to 1996, this older segment of the population grew 2.2 times as fast as the total population.

There were 16.5 million older licensed drivers in 1995 (1996 data not available) -- a 47 percent increase from the number in 1985. In contrast, the total number of licensed drivers increased by only 13 percent from 1985 to 1995. Older drivers made up 9 percent of all licensed drivers in 1995, compared with 7 percent in 1985.

In 1996, 178,000 older individuals were injured in traffic crashes, accounting for 5 percent of all the people injured in traffic crashes during the year. These older individuals made up 13 percent of all traffic fatalities, 13 percent of all vehicle occupant fatalities, and 17 percent of all pedestrian fatalities.

Most traffic fatalities involving older drivers in 1996 occurred during the daytime (82 percent), on weekdays (72 percent), and involved another vehicle (75 percent).

In two-vehicle fatal crashes involving an older driver and a younger driver, the vehicle driven by the older person was more than 3 times as likely to be the one that was struck (58 percent and 18 percent, respectively). In 45 percent of these crashes, both vehicles were proceeding straight at the time of the collision. In 28 percent, the older driver was turning left -- 9 times as often as the younger driver.

Older drivers involved in fatal crashes had the lowest proportion of intoxication -- with blood alcohol concentrations (BAC) of 0.10 grams per deciliter (g/dl) or greater -- of all adult drivers. Fatally injured older pedestrians also had the lowest intoxication rate of all adult pedestrian fatalities.

More than two-thirds (69 percent) of all older occupants of passenger cars involved in fatal crashes were using restraints at the time of the crash, compared to 55 percent for other adult occupants.

For older people, 63 percent of pedestrian fatalities in 1996 occurred at non-intersection locations. For other pedestrians, 80 percent of fatalities occurred at non-intersection locations. When driver fatality rates are calculated on the basis of estimated annual travel, the highest rates are found among the youngest and oldest drivers. Compared with the fatality rate for drivers 25 to 65 years old, the rate for drivers in the oldest group is 17 times as high.

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