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CDC Report Says Highway Incidents Are Leading Cause of Death for Workers Older Than 65

September 03, 2013

A report from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found that highway transportation incidents are the leading cause of death of work-related fatalities in the U.S., with the highest fatality rates occurring among workers who are 65 years old and older.

The CDC analyzed data from the Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries (CFOI) for the period 2003–2010 and compared occupational highway transportation deaths among workers aged 55–64 years and 65 years and older with those among workers aged 18–54 years. The report found that workers in the 65-years-and-older category had a rate of 3.1 highway transportation deaths per 100,000 full-time-equivalent [FTE] workers per year, whereas workers aged 18–54 years had a rate of 0.9 deaths per 100,000 FTE workers. This pattern held across demographic and occupational categories, according to the CDC’s research.

The CDC defined an occupational highway transportation death as involving a motorized or non-motorized vehicle and a worker 18 years old and older, with the incident occurring on a public road, where the victim was the operator, passenger, or a pedestrian struck in or on the side of the road. Deaths traveling between work locations are included in the CDC’s research but deaths commuting to and from work are not.

During the 2003–2010 period the CDC analyzed, a total of 11,587 workers aged 18 years and older in the United States died in occupational highway transportation incidents, of whom a total of 3,113 (26.9 percent) were 55 years of age and older.

By industry, the CDC found that workers in transportation and warehousing accounted for a third of all deaths and had the highest rates across all age groups, at 6.5 deaths per 100,000 FTE workers per year, 10.6, and 21.2 for ages 18–54, 55–64, and 65 years and older, respectively. By primary occupation, rates were highest in transportation and material moving occupations for all age groups: 7.4 deaths per 100,000 FTE workers per year, 12.9, and 22.9 for ages 18–54, 55–64, and 65 years and older, respectively. These occupations accounted for one half of all deaths, according to the CDC.

Collisions between vehicles accounted for the largest proportion of deaths in each age group, at 43%, 43%, and 48% for ages 18–54, 55–64, and 65 years and older, respectively, according to the CDC. The number of pedestrian deaths was relatively small, 12 to 13 percent, in all age groups, the CDC stated.

Among workers 65 years and older, the type of vehicle most often involved in a fatal incident was an automobile (at 23 percent), semi-tractor trailer truck (at 22 percent), or a pickup truck (at 15 percent), and a greater proportion of deaths involved off-road and industrial vehicles (9 percent, compared with 2 percent for the other age groups). The CDC stated it observed a higher proportion of deaths involving semi-tractor trailer trucks for workers aged 18–54 years and 55–64 years (31 percent and 37 percent, respectively).

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