Motor vehicle crashes are one of the leading causes of death in the U.S.1 More than 2.3 million adult drivers and passengers were treated in emergency departments as the result of being injured in motor vehicle crashes in 2009.2 The economic impact is also notable: the lifetime costs of crash-related deaths and injuries among drivers and passengers were $70 billion in 2005.3
The Center for Disease Control’s (CDC) research and prevention efforts target this serious public health problem. They focus on improving car and booster seat and seat belt use and reducing impaired driving, and helping groups at risk: child passengers, teen drivers, and older adult drivers. CDC also works to prevent pedestrian and bicycle injuries.
Based on the magnitude of the health problem, and our ability to make significant progress in improving outcomes, Motor Vehicle Injury Prevention is a CDC Winnable Battle.
State-based Costs of Crash Deaths from CDC
The United Nations General Assembly has proclaimed 2011 to 2020 as the Decade of Action for Road Safety. CDC is excited to be part of this effort to enhance focus on protecting people on the road. As a first step, CDC is releasing fact sheets showing the tremendous cost burden of deaths from motor vehicle crashes in the United States, and highlighting strategies to prevent these deaths.
Over 30,000 people are killed in crashes each year in the United States. In 2005, in addition to the toll on victims’ family and friends, crash deaths resulted in $41 billion in medical and work loss costs.
A new CDC data analysis looked at the costs of crash deaths by state and found that half of all costs were found in 10 states. The ten states with the highest medical and work loss costs were California ($4.16 billion), Texas ($3.50 billion), Florida ($3.16 billion), Georgia ($1.55 billion), Pennsylvania ($1.52 billion), North Carolina ($1.50 billion), New York ($1.33 billion), Illinois ($1.32 billion), Ohio ($1.23 billion), and Tennessee ($1.15 billion).
In 2009, there were 33 million licensed drivers ages 65 and older in the United States.1 Driving helps older adults stay mobile and independent. But the risk of being injured or killed in a motor vehicle crash increases as you age. An average of 500 older adults are injured every day in crashes.2
Thankfully, there are steps that older adults can take to stay safer on the roads.
How big is the problem?
- In 2008, more than 5,500 older adults were killed and more than 183,000 were injured in motor vehicle crashes. This amounts to 15 older adults killed and 500 injured in crashes on average every day.1
- There were 33 million licensed older drivers in 2009, which is a 23 percent increase from 1999.2,3
Who is most at risk?
- Per mile traveled, fatal crash rates increase starting at age 75 and increase notably after age 80. This is largely due to increased susceptibility to injury and medical complications among older drivers rather than an increased tendency to get into crashes.4
- Age-related declines in vision and cognitive functioning (ability to reason and remember), as well as physical changes, may affect some older adults’ driving abilities.5
- Across all age groups, males had substantially higher death rates than females.4
How can older driver deaths and injuries be prevented?
Existing protective factors that may help improve older drivers’ safety include:
- High incidence of seat belt use: More than three in every four (77%) older motor vehicle occupants (drivers and passengers) involved in fatal crashes were wearing seat belts at the time of the crash, compared to 63% for other adult occupants (18 to 64 years of age).1
- Tendency to drive when conditions are the safest: Older drivers tend to limit their driving during bad weather and at night and drive fewer miles than younger drivers.6
- Lower incidence of impaired driving: Older adult drivers are less likely to drink and drive than other adult drivers.7 Only 5% of older drivers involved in fatal crashes had a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.08 grams per deciliter (g/dL) or higher, compared to 25% of drivers between the ages of 21 and 64 years.1
Older adults can take several steps to stay safe on the road, including:
- Asking your doctor or pharmacist to review medicines–both prescription and over-the counter–to reduce side effects and interactions.
- Having eyes checked by an eye doctor at least once a year. Wear glasses and corrective lenses as required.
- Driving during daylight and in good weather.
- Finding the safest route with well-lit streets, intersections with left turn arrows, and easy parking.
- Planning your route before you drive.
- Leaving a large following distance behind the car in front of you.
- Avoiding distractions in your car, such as listening to a loud radio, talking on your cell phone, texting, and eating.
Considering potential alternatives to driving, such as riding with a friend or using public transit, that you can use to get around.