NHTSA Aims to Protect Older Drivers with New Program and Guidelines
In conjunction with 2013’s “Older Driver Safety Awareness Week” (December 2-December 6), the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) recently announced a new program aimed at increasing the safety of older drivers. The program is designed to hopefully quell the tide of older driver and passenger fatalities and serious injuries as the population of older Americans swells with the aging of the so-called “baby boomer” generation.
The NHTSA reports a dramatic increase in the numbers of older Americans (those age 65 and older), a 20 percent rise since 2003. The number of older drivers has seen a corollary increase, and has gone up 21 percent in that same time; there are now more than 35 million licensed drivers over the age of 65. Unfortunately, as drivers get older, they are more likely to be seriously injured or killed in motor vehicle accidents. There were nearly 5,600 senior citizen deaths in traffic crashes in 2012 alone, and more than 214,000 injuries in that same time.
The increase in deaths and serious injuries among older drivers is particularly troubling as both vehicles and roadways have become safer in recent years. In addition, older drivers are, statistically speaking, among the safest drivers on the road.
That is why the NHTSA has designed the three-prong “Older Driver Safety Program.” The program focuses on three distinct areas in which strides can be made to help keep older vehicle operators and occupants safer:
- Vehicle safety, including the use of advanced collision avoidance systems, vehicle-to-vehicle communication and crashworthiness improvements designed to specifically meet the unique challenges posed by the elderly (like the fact that their bodies tend to be more frail, so serious injury is possible even in relatively minor accidents)
- Data collection methods which will help the NHTSA better track the causes of car and truck accidents involving older drivers or passengers, to document the rate of injury of different demographics in similar accidents and to determine the extent to which age-related illnesses like dementia impact road safety
- Driver behavior, focusing not only on age, but also on vision, hearing, reaction times, strength, flexibility and cognition
Given that the NHTSA’s program to increase safety for older drivers and passengers has just been rolled out, its impact has yet to be felt. Only time will tell if it will be successful. Until then, the fact remains that older drivers are being injured and killed in auto accidents at a higher rate than their younger counterparts. Have you or an elderly loved one been injured in a car accident? Do you need help navigating the legal system to recover much-needed compensation? Seek the advice of an experienced personal injury attorney in your area to learn more about legal avenues at your disposal to hold an at-fault driver accountable for injuries resulting from a collision.