The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration announced this week that it was embarking on a rather ambitious undertaking designed to help raise awareness and improve safety among a certain class of drivers currently found in rather large numbers on America’s many roads and highways.

Here, the target audience of the 5-year NHTSA initiative isn’t teen drivers, but rather older drivers, meaning those men and women age 65 and older. Fueled in large part by the ranks of aging baby boomers, this class of drivers has increased by 21 percent from 2003 to 2012, reaching an astonishing 35 million licensed drivers.

While you may question the need for the NHTSA to go to such lengths concerning the population of older drivers, consider some of agency’s findings concerning car accidents involving older drivers:

  • In 2012 alone, 214,000 older people (i.e., 65 and up) suffered personal injuries in car accidents, while another 5,560 were killed in car accidents; this constituted an increase of 16 percent and 3 percent respectively from the previous year.
  • Older people are at an elevated risk of suffering debilitating personal injuries or fatal injuries in car accidents — even those at relatively low speeds — due to their more fragile condition.

As part of its 5-year traffic safety plan, the NHTSA indicated that it will continue to research those advanced vehicle technologies that may prove to be beneficial to older people, including crash avoidance systems and safety systems specially designed to account for their vulnerabilities.

In addition, the NHTSA announced that it would continue to gather comprehensive data in an attempt to learn more about the unique issues facing older drivers and would create public education campaigns catering to at-risk older drivers.

“Safety is our highest priority and that includes ensuring the safety of our older drivers, who represent a growing population on our roads,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx. “This plan will help enhance safety for everyone by helping states address the mobility needs of their older drivers.”

It should be interesting to see how this all unfolds and how receptive older drivers prove to be …

Source: Claims Journal, “NHTSA announces 5-Year traffic safety plan and guidelines for older drivers and passengers,” Dec. 5, 2013