The 2000 United States Census counted 35 million residents aged 65 years old or older. Projections indicate that this number will increase to 63 million by 2025. This increase is important for those concerned about vehicle safety because older drivers and passengers are vulnerable road users. Much of the previous research concentrates on the role of the aging process on crash involvement among older drivers, but these lines of questioning overlook the fact that vehicle and crash factors may be a significant part of why older occupants suffer higher injury and fatality rates.
This paper demonstrates the role that vehicle and crash factors play in explaining differences in injuries across age groups. Important vehicle and crash characteristics include the number of vehicles involved, the body type of the occupant’s vehicle as well as body type of the other vehicle in two vehicle crashes, the initial point of impact, and the total change in velocity experienced by the occupants.
The types of vehicles driven by the coming older generation, together with higher average speeds and the recent shifts in vehicle mix on the road, are cause for even greater concern for the protection of older occupants. The results demonstrate that variation in the types of crashes and vehicles across age groups is important for explaining injuries. Examination of these factors provides information for consideration of possible regulatory changes needed to protect older drivers and passengers. The results also may be informative to automotive manufacturers who are considering modifications to accommodate older occupants.