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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]

Apr 10, 2013 12:17PM
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

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
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!
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

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
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

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
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
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
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.
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