This study compares injury outcomes in vehicle crashes involving different age groups of belted passengers. Two datasets were considered.
Firstly, UK national data revealed that younger passengers are much more likely to be involved in crashes per million miles travelled compared to older passengers although older passengers are much more likely to be killed or seriously injured compared to younger passengers.
Secondly, in-depth vehicle crash injury data were examined to determine some of the underlying reasons for the enhanced injury risk amongst older passengers. In crashes of approximately equal severity, the older passenger group were significantly more likely to be fatally injured in frontal crashes (p<0.001). However young passengers were as equally likely to be killed in struck-side crashes compared to the older group. The results also showed that older passengers sustained more serious injuries to the chest region in frontal crashes compared with the younger aged group (p<0.0001) and it is this body region that is particularly problematic. When the data were analysed further, it was found that a large proportion of passengers were female and that in the majority of cases, the seat belt was responsible for injury.
Since by the year 2030, 1 in 4 persons will be aged over 65 in most OECD countries, the results suggest a need for intervention through vehicle design including in-vehicle crashworthiness systems that take into account reduced tolerance to impact with ageing.