This paper reports the findings of a statistical analysis of the accident characteristics of older drivers, focusing especially on their interaction with large trucks. According to the Fatal Accident Reporting System (FARS), American drivers over the age of 65 are over 50% more likely to be involved in a fatal heavy truck accident than younger drivers. Mile for mile, senior drivers are over three times more likely to be both involved in, and killed by, a fatal truck accident, as compared to displaying less than twice the risk per mile of a fatal encounter with other automobiles. Analysis of the FARS accident data base confirms seniors' fear of large trucks, the area often cited by the elderly in the literature as their foremost road safety concern. Seniors are specifically concerned with truck operating speeds and their perception of aggressive behavior on the part of truck drivers. Older drivers identify trucks and truck-heavy roadway environments (night, rural interstates, etc.) as among their greatest areas of deliberate avoidance. Despite this avoidance, the elderly are significantly over-represented in serious truck accidents in the historical accident data; older drivers are the least likely to travel in the presence of large trucks, but the most likely to be killed by them. Moreover, FARS data show that some specific kinds of trucks accidents in which elderly drivers are over-involved follow directly from known older driver operating characteristics that conflict with those of heavy trucks: elderly drivers are over six times more likely than are younger drivers to be killed in accidents where trucks hit them from behind; they are two-and-a-half times more likely than younger drivers to die in car/truck accidents on wet roads. The frequency of such accidents confirms a number of seniors' most emphatically expressed fears (as cited in the literature) about sharing the road with large trucks. Other research (using unreleased accident data) currently underway at the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) confirms that older drivers are far more likely to be killed in a truck/car accident than younger Americans. Besides colliding more frequently with trucks, they also die at a greater frequency per collision. As the number of Americans continues to increase, both in absolute as well as in relative terms, the associated safety problems between older drivers and large trucks can be expected to worsen. Moreover, the recent repeal of the Federal speed limit--and the subsequent raising of highway speed limits in a number of states--can also be expected to contribute to a general worsening of the safety record between large trucks and the elderly. The speed differential between trucks and older drivers will almost certainly increase on flat grades and downgrades, and so will the rear-end fatal collision rate.

  • Supplemental Notes:
    • This report was prepared for the Association of American Railroads.
  • Corporate Authors:

    Mingo (RD) and Associates

    2141 Wisconsin Avenue, NW, Suite G-4
    Washington, DC  United States  20007
  • Authors:
    • Mingo, R D
    • Martinusen, E
    • Zhuang, L
  • Publication Date: 1996-1


  • English

Media Info

  • Features: Figures; References; Tables;
  • Pagination: 33 p.

Subject/Index Terms

Filing Info

  • Accession Number: 00728407
  • Record Type: Publication
  • Files: TRIS
  • Created Date: Nov 12 1996 12:00AM