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NHTSA wants to highlight safety features for senior drivers

Proposed new rating system would focus on crash avoidance and other safety technologies to help protect older motorists.

By James_Tate Apr 8, 2013 12:34PM

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration wants to rate how well automakers can prevent senior citizens from getting into car accidents.


A new “silver car” rating system would specifically judge how well safety features could help prevent accidents for older drivers. The use of certain technologies could help raise a car’s “silver” score, such as systems designed to help prevent drivers from using the wrong pedals at lower speeds.


In a posting to the Federal Register, NHTSA said that it was particularly focused on "crash avoidance" and wanted to "help identify the potential areas for improvement to the program that have the greatest potential for producing safety benefits." Advanced crash warning, lane assist and parking sensors have become more common and accessible in the current generation of new cars, and new NHTSA tests and ratings could help guide seniors in deciding which new car to buy. 


In Europe, such safety features will be included in a car's overall crash rating in the European New Car Assessment Program starting in 2014. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety has also said it would rate and include active safety systems in future crash tests. NHTSA had proposed ranking active safety systems on an "A to C" scale, but so far, nothing has come of it.


Other new regulations could include ratings on how well rear-seat passengers fare in accidents, along with information on how well a car protects pedestrians in crashes, as is already seen in Europe. The agency said it would conduct focus-group testing this year to determine whether buyers want such information and to determine if it should rate individual safety systems as their own category, as opposed to recommending them within larger reviews, as it does now. However NHTSA decides to incorporate new information, it said these new proposals would not affect the determination of its well-known five-star crash ratings.


“We always have to look at ways we can improve the margin of safety,” NHTSA Administrator David Strickland told reporters after the release of the Federal Register post.


We think that with an aging population, an increase in the number of senior-citizen drivers is inevitable, and creating a new set of metrics to aid that growing demographic is a natural, intelligent response. The potential new NHTSA guidelines and recommendations should not only improve safety conditions for seniors on the road, but for the rest of us as well.


[Sources: Automotive News; photo via MSN Money]

172Comments
Apr 10, 2013 12:17PM
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We have all been frustrated by a slow driving senior from time to time but to be honest I'm more concerned about the driver who thinks eating, while finding the preferred song on their MP3 player and checking out the text on their phone - all while driving is far more concerning than senior drivers who the majority have enough experience driving to know they need to focus on their driving and not the latest gadget.  Not trying to knock anyone here - just saying I see far more dangerous drivers on the road that are not seniors - maybe we should all have to take at least a written drivers test every 10 years or so just to make sure we all know what the current laws are.
Apr 17, 2013 2:02AM
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Excuse me?! They're complaining about senior citizens who DON'T TEXT AND TALK ON THEIR PHONES while driving. TEENS & ADULTS of all ages do. They are the most dangerous. Slow reflexes or not I'd rather deal w/that than someone w/their head down texting or so busy talking on the phone they're not paying attention.

 

It is ILLEGAL in the state of Oregon to be on the phone while in your car do you think that stops anyone?! No! Get off your damn phones and drive people!

Apr 17, 2013 2:20AM
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bring it on you young whipper snappers!  I'll take a driver's test any day.  As a former professional truck driver with over 2 million accident free miles I've got more miles in reverse than you've got in forward.  Let's test!
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Well, FROSTYROSE if that what you want then how about taking all the licenses off of the younger generation who are busy talking on the phone, texting, doing their nails, eyes, makeup, reading their kindle, paper and what have you. At least the seniors know enough to keep their eyes on the road. What do you have to say about that???
Apr 17, 2013 2:11AM
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Senior drivers are more careful because they realize their reflexes are not what they were in the past. Technology such as back-up cameras and sensors are also a plus. Blind spot warning systems are also good for everybody.

The real threat on the highways comes from young drivers driving in an "offensive" mode while speeding and zipping in and out of traffic with the radio blasting.  They expect other drivers to react to their behavior.

Apr 17, 2013 2:53AM
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How about a law that says you must be able to read English before you can get a license.  STOP does not mean " free burritos ahead-hurry"
Apr 17, 2013 2:17AM
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I have always said that when I get to a certain age, I will stop driving, told the kids to take the keys away, but what I resent is, is people who go by me and shoot me the bird, when I'm going to speed limit, what is the hurry.

Just remember you will be a senior citizen one day, so just stop and think what you say and do, you know what they say about Karma:)

Apr 17, 2013 2:28AM
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This is just about the insurance industry trying to find yet another excuse for charging higher rates for my age group!  It's not about safety, it's all about money!   They already know that most of us aren't going to buy the latest car with the latest safety features so they will be justified in charging us higher rates even though we the safest group of drivers on the highway. 
Apr 17, 2013 3:09AM
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It is not the older drivers that worry me, it is the younger ones that have the phone glued to their hand up to their ear or texting.  Eventhough we have laws that prohibit texting, they are not enforced in our state.  The distraction of the under 50 group is what scares the crap out of me.  The seniors are concentrating on their driving not what is going on with their phones.
Apr 17, 2013 2:36AM
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Your right rolladex, I have seen young people pretending to be some kind of half **** stock car racer get in traffic on the turnpike that is heavy and zig zag in and out and ride tailgate doing 70 mph risking everyone's lives because they feel the need to play some sort of racer game.
Apr 17, 2013 2:59AM
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YET ANOTHER Insurance Industry scam to run rates up for EVERY DRIVER over age 60, just as they have for EVERY DRIVER under age 25. 

 

Because the industry "DONATES" so much to campaigns (of course they don't BUY INFLUENCE from our illustrious 'SERVANTS' their wish SHALL BE a command to OUR fkng bought off CONGRESS.

 

American law makers, the best RICO Racket in the world.   Have you bribed your Congressman today!!  Any corporation, NON-PROFIT, or business organization -- think Chamber of Commerce and NRA -- that doesn't own AT LEAST A DOZEN members of Congress can't possibly worth two horse turds.

 

ANY QUESTION WHY THERE IS ABSOLUTELY NO RESPECT FOR LAW OR LAW & ORDER WHEN THE COPS/PROSECUTORS/JUDGES AND ELECTED OFFICIALS ARE THE MOST DANGEROUS AND MOST CORRUPT ELEMENT OF AMERICAN SOCIETY.

Apr 17, 2013 4:58AM
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I am 83 and my license comes up for renewal in 2 year.  I intend to request both the written and the driving test in order to renew my license.  I am certain I can pass both but I do not want to put at risk the safety of someone else if I am not still qualified for a driving license.  A license is NOT a right, it is a privilege which must be earned with every renewal.  To think or act otherwise is to put at risk the wellbeing of all others on the road.
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I have not had a ticket or an accident in over 40 years, I drive the speed limit, on occasion a little over, ;>D,  I DO NOT talk, text or take pictures on my cell phone while driving and yet my insurance premium increases each year because of my age.  When I question the insurance company they reply, "that's the way it is."

 

I say that's wrong, we, all of us, should be judged on our driving record and experience not on our age.  Sure I have seen some "older people" who should never be allowed on the road but at the same time I have seen many, many more "young folk" who are talking, texting and taking pictures while driving down the highway far above the speed limit.

 

Enough already, target those that need targeting, the ones breaking the law, young or old....

Apr 17, 2013 3:39AM
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While older drivers are not truly the most accident prone they do seem to have a unique set of problems both physical and mental.  I am approaching 70 years of age and have driven for a living most of my life and feel quite competent behind the wheel of a vehicle.  However both of my parents had to stop driving because of physical and mental issues.  My father one day told me that he just didn't trust his own reaction time so he stopped voluntarily.  My mother, on the other hand, had to be made to stop driving when she developed dementia and began to have episodes where she would simply get lost.

 

I would be in favor of more stringent testing for older drivers that focuses on things like reaction time, attention span, and visual acuity, etc.  Sure I don't want to lose my mobility and independence but sometimes we aren't aware of our own decline in skills and this kind of testing could prevent the old person who drives through the front of a business because they got confused about the gas and the brake pedal or who gets lost and dies of exposure after leaving the roadway and winding up in the middle of a corn field or something. 

Apr 17, 2013 3:33AM
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To improve roadway safety, the NHST should implement and mandate law regarding the use of cell phone signal blockers in the newer vehicles. This technology would most certainly reduce the number of drivers with access to text and internet features on their phones while driving. Vehicles with the satellite-based phone systems (i.e. Onstar, M-B Teleaid) would still operate in case of in vehicle emergency or in situations where the driver has no egress.


I am not sure that adding advanced collision warning systems to vehicles will assist the aging population. It’s simply more distractions, via visual and audible stimuli. The intent to create a safer and more alert driver is there; however, there tends to be the issue of sensory reduction with the elderly.


We now have technology that allows Airline pilots the ability to fly planes from a simulator. Every DMV should have just that, a simulator. A brief five minute driving session when obtaining a new license for teens and renewing as seniors.


Frankly, I’ve seen middle aged adults drive more irresponsibly than both groups. DWI’s for alcohol and drug intoxication are just one example. 

Apr 17, 2013 3:01AM
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 Hmm, sounds like Obarry is starting to weed out the undesirables already. Kinda like 1030's Germany, huh?
Apr 8, 2013 1:03PM
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If they want to help keep seniors from getting hurt in accidents then maybe they should re road test them every few years to see if they should still be driving or not. I know it sounds mean but I don't intend for it to be, if their reflexes, eye sight and senses can no longer allow them to safely operate a vehicle then do them a favor (and everyone else on the road ) and get them out from behind the steering wheel. Both of my parents have the sense to realize that their driving days are winding down and are asking to be driven when they don't feel comfortable, which is becoming more and more often. They also talk openly about it and are not upset at discussing that maybe the time is near. Not everyone wants to let go that easily, thus the reason they should be getting tested more often.
Apr 17, 2013 3:42AM
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@ (and to others angry about a perceived attack on seniors) - Living in S FLA, I've seen the worst of both types of drivers and both need to be addressed.  I believe Frosty's point was not to refute that younger drivers have problems of their own.  Most states are enacting laws to keep people from texting or other distractions of the younger generation.  There are no laws that  that force the assessment of a senior's ability to drive in a more appropriate timeline or fashion, such as decreasing the # of years a license is valid.  Like social sec, it's a third rail in FL politics because seniors are a large voting base.  In the spirit of what HOA Pres FL wrote, there SHOULD be more tech to help senior drivers, as well as more awareness of offensive driving.  Yet seniors are in a horrible position, with declining skills they often find themselves in dangerous situations, unable to make a decision, disrupting the flow of traffic, and thus putting everyone around them in danger.  I agree, this needs more discussion and communication on how to best address this without denying seniors the right to be independent.
Apr 17, 2013 4:42AM
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Come on now let's be fair. Texting and talking while driving spans all the generations. Agreed there are more younger folks doing this than older, but I have seen many older (60 to 70+) citizens doing the same. I am a senior citizen at 63, and I have phone and texting on my cell, but I don't text while driving and have hands free calling through my radio. If I get a call, I can answer with one touch of a button, and I keep it short and sweet. I have observed people holding a phone to the ear while driving on a heavily traveled highway for over 10 to 15 miles (about 20 minutes). There is nothing so important that it can't wait until you have stopped your trip or if it is pull over to the side of the road, take the call and continue on. That goes for those reading maps, instructions, papers etc., doing make-up and numerous other distracting things other than what you are supposed to do with and in a car-- Drive. Please be smart and safe. Use your phone when you are not behind the wheel of a car. You younger drivers will increase the chance to live to be a senior citizen that some complain about. I would rather  drive a little slower and safer and get there alive in one piece.

 

Apr 9, 2013 7:21AM
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frostyross

 

You do not need to apologize; there is no offense. Your comment is excellent.

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