BACKGROUND: Older adults (aged > or = 65 years) represent the single fastest growing segment of the United States population and will comprise one in five Americans during the third decade of this century. As this population segment rapidly expands, lower extremity fractures (LE Fx) and their associated disability will become a greater public health concern. The purpose of this study was to quantify the risk for LE Fx from motor vehicle collisions (MVCs) according to age. METHODS: The 1995 to 2000 National Automotive Sampling System data files were used. Study entry was limited to front-seat occupants involved in frontal MVCs. Risk ratios for LE Fx and age were adjusted for gender, driver versus passenger, seat belt use, airbag deployment, delta-V, intrusion, and vehicle type. RESULTS: Beginning in the fourth decade, there was a trend of higher relative risk for LE Fx with age that reached statistical significance in the seventh decade of life. CONCLUSION: This study documented an increased risk of LE Fx in older MVC occupants. Efforts to prevent these disabling injuries and to better protect occupants' lower extremities in MVCs should include improved vehicle design and reevaluation of the existing federal motor vehicle safety standards.