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NHTSA: Tailor Safety Ratings to Older Drivers, Families

Our Oakland Park injury lawyers know many people are aware of the benefits of reviewing safety-rating information when purchasing a vehicle.

However, there is often a great deal to decipher and it’s hard to know what’s truly relevant.

Now, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is recommending the creation of two additional safety ratings, one of which would be specifically geared toward families and another for senior drivers.

This would be a change made to the organization’s New Car Assessment Program. The rating for older drivers would be a “silver rating” and the one for families would be simply a “family rating.” The former would look at how specific elements of a vehicle would aid older drivers. The latter would look at things like protection for rear-seat passengers, particularly children.

The NHTSA said these other two ratings would be in addition to the one it currently provides, which measures new vehicle safety on a scale of 1 to 5 stars – and has done so since the late 1970s.

This kind of overhaul, the NHTSA said, would be a process that could take anywhere from three and four years.

Part of the decision comes from the fact that the baby boomer generation is rapidly creating a phenomenon that has been termed the “silver tsunami.” The AARP reports that as of today, more than 15 percent of all drivers in the country are 65 and older. By the year 2025, one-fifth of all drivers will be at least 65 years-old. By the year 2030, some 57 million drivers will be considered elderly. That’s 20 million more than we have today.

The idea behind a silver rating is that older people are generally less able than younger occupants to withstand the impact of a violent crash. Older drivers account for the highest death rate in car crashes.

The focus for the new silver rating would be to offer older drivers information that would help them choose vehicles that would be safer for them. Some of those options might include inflatable seat belts as well as certain features that might help prevent low-speed pedal misapplication. Additionally, older drivers with arthritis might find that push-button start systems, easy-grip steering wheels and automatic seat belts would be helpful. Those who are shorter might find relief with telescoping steering columns and adjustable brake and gas pedals.

There is concern, however, that such a rating may backfire. As the AAA director of traffic safety advocacy and research pointed out, seniors don’t want “old people cars.” Marketing may be an important investment if the effort is to be effective.

As far as families, it’s no secret that parents want to know which vehicles are going to provide the most protection for children. A rating for crashworthiness on the basis of safety for rear-seat child occupants is going to be critical.

The NHTSA is opening up the forum to the public, in hopes of getting feedback on what kinds of features might be important to them in each of these categories.

Call Freeman, Mallard, Sharp & Gonzalez — 1-800-561-7777 for a free appointment to discuss your rights.

Additional Resources:
NHTSA Proposes Older Driver, Family Vehicle Safety Ratings, April 9, 2013, By Suzanne Kane, The Washington Post

More Blog Entries:
Drive It Home Encourages Parents To Help Teens Avoid Car Wrecks, March 26, 2013, Oakland Park Injury Lawyer Blog

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