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NHTSA Suggests Rating System For Older Drivers

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has suggested a car rating system for older drivers. The agency is seeking public comments in the Federal Register for the proposed system, which would set up a “silver car” rating in the New Car Assessment Program (NCAP). The NHTSA is asking older drivers about aspects of car performance which would help them, especially new safety features in the event of a car accident. The Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, an industry group that includes some of the largest automakers, said it will offer comments on the NHTSA’s proposal.

The American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) reports that 16 percent of licensed drivers are aged 65 or older; by 2025, this number is expected to increase by 20 percent. For older folks, car accidents are a leading cause of injury-related fatalities; drivers 85 and older have a fatality rate per mile driven that’s nine times higher than the rate for drivers aged 25 to 69. Safety experts and a lot of older citizens will probably embrace the concept of the “silver car” system; but some people are a little more status-conscious—a representative of the American Automobile Association (AAA) said a lot of older drivers don’t want to buy a car that’s regarded as the stereotypical “older person’s vehicle.”

The AAA has found a different approach to selling safety features in cars for seniors: focusing on individual features specific to conditions older people have. For example, an arthritis sufferer could find some comfort with a push button starter and a thicker steering wheel that’s easier to grasp. Adjustable gas and brake pedals would help shorter drivers. Some other possible additions to NCAP: blind spot detection tools, lane departure prevention technology, advanced frontal lights, and crash-imminent braking systems. Anyone wishing to submit comments on the proposed changes can do so at, referencing docket number NHTSA-2012-0180, through July 5, 2013.

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