With traffic accidents involving people over 65 on the rise, the U.S. Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has rolled out a new five-year traffic safety plan for older drivers and passengers.
In 2012, 5,560 people over the age of 65 died, and 214,000 were injured in motor vehicle crashes, according to NHTSA’s latest issue of Safety in Numbers. Those figures represent a 3 percent increase in the number of fatalities and a 16 percent increase in the number of injuries from the previous year. The data also show that older adults are at greater risk of dying or sustaining serious injuries, even in low-severity crashes.
The demographic trends in the U.S. mean that the population of older adults has increased by 20 percent and the number of licensed older drivers increased by 21 percent, to 35 million licensed older drivers in 2012.
To keep older drivers – and those who share the road with them – safe, the NHTSA is focusing on the following:
- Vehicle Safety: NHTSA is researching a number of advanced vehicle technologies including vehicle-to-vehicle communications, collision avoidance and crashworthiness, that could help reduce the risk of death or injury to older occupants in the event of a crash. Crash avoidance technologies will benefit all drivers, but may be of special assistance to older drivers, while certain crashworthiness improvements could help address the special vulnerabilities of older occupants. The agency is also considering upgrades to its New Car Assessment Program, including a new “Silver” rating system for older occupants.
- Improved Data Collection: NHTSA is refining its data collection systems and will continue to evaluate crash rates, real-world injuries, as well as physical, cognitive and perceptual changes associated with driver behaviors. In addition, NHTSA plans to conduct clinical and naturalistic driving studies to better understand the effects of age-related medical conditions, including dementia.
- Driver Behavior: Recognizing that age alone is not a determining factor for safe driving, NHTSA continues to focus its efforts on public education and identifying functional changes including vision, strength, flexibility and cognition to help at-risk drivers. This effort includes first-of-its-kind Older Driver Highway Safety Program Guidelines that states can implement to keep older people safely mobile.
“Although older drivers are some of the safest drivers on our roads, our plan builds upon the NHTSA’s current work to help older people drive as safely and as long as possible,” said NHTSA Administrator David Strickland.
The NHTSA says its Older Driver Highway Safety Program Guidelines are based on best practices around the country and include countermeasures that can be implemented to ensure the safety of older drivers, including at-risk drivers. The guidelines encourage state highway safety offices to work closely with driver license officials, state departments of transportation, medical providers and aging services providers, among others.
Click here to view NHTSA’s Highway Safety Program Guidelines.
Read about Older Driver Safety in NHTSA's latest issue of Safety in Numbers, a new online monthly newsletter on hot topics in auto safety – including problem identification, people at risk, and recommended practices and solutions to mitigate injury and death on our nation’s roadways. It includes tips for older drivers, problem identification and information on people at risk.
Click here to view NHTSA’s 5-Year Traffic Safety Plan for Older People.