Older Driver Safety Concerns to be Addressed by NHTSA Plan

Government traffic safety officials have announced a strategic five year plan to implement precautionary measures designed to reduce the risk of elderly drivers and passengers suffering injuries in auto accidents, using technology and driver behavioral analysis.  

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) announced its Traffic Safety Plan and Guidelines on December 5, after recognizing that 2012 data found a 19% increase in traffic related deaths and injuries for adults over the age of 65.

The plan focuses on three aspects of researching and refining ways to create safe technological advances to vehicles and mobility safety.

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The NHTSA recognizes that older drivers are among the safest drivers on the roadways, but its concern is that since 2003 the population of licensed older adults, 65 and older, has increased by 21%, accounting for roughly 35 million drivers. With the statistics from last year indicating a 3% increase in deaths and a 16% increase in injuries sustained from car accidents, the initiative is designed to reduce the risk of older adults dying or sustaining severe injuries even in minor accidents.

The NHTSA’s Traffic Safety Plan suggests there are a number of vehicle technologies available, including vehicle-to-vehicle communications and collision avoidance systems, which would help decrease the risk of death or injury to elderly drivers and passengers. The agency is also making efforts to enforce upgrades to its New Car Assessment Program, which includes a “Silver” rating system for older occupants.

Researchers at NHTSA are also refining the way they are collecting data, so they can effectively evaluate crash rates, injuries, and the physical, cognitive, and perceptual changes associated with driving behaviors.

The agency plans to start conducting clinical studies to better understand the effects of age related medical conditions and how they may play a role in the increase of accidents. Additionally, the agency plans to focus its efforts on public education and identifying significant functional changes such as vision, strength, flexibility and cognition to help elderly drivers avoid accidents.

To ensure the veracity of the research the NHTSA plans to work directly with state highway safety officials, at-risk drivers, medical and aging service providers, and state department of transportation agencies.

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