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Safety regulators announce new plan for senior drivers

As the baby boomer generation grows older, our nation’s population as a whole becomes older as well. With this, a larger percentage of drivers on the road in Kentucky and elsewhere will be over the age of 65. Over the past 10 years the number of older licensed drivers has increased by 21 percent.

Recent statistics show that this is not without consequence – 214,000 people over the age of 65 were injured in car accidents last year. Those who are involved in a car accident over the age of 65 have a higher likelihood of sustaining a serious injury or being killed in a crash.

These statistics and others on the dangers faced by older drivers have led the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration to create a new plan to help improve safety for drivers over the age of 65. The plan focuses on three key areas – data collection, vehicle safety, and driver behavior.

Encouraging and requiring car companies to create vehicles that are easier for older drivers to handle and that absorb impact better is a crucial step, as is collecting more information on these types of crashes and understanding the causes of injuries and deaths for older Americans in car accidents.

Improving driver behavior will be a significant hurdle, as regulators aim to find ways to intervene before natural byproducts of aging such as worsening vision, less physical strength, or cognitive problems interfere with one’s ability to drive safely. These problems often come along slowly over time, so it can be hard to know exactly when a friend or family member has progressed to the point of no longer being safe behind the wheel, so the NHTSA will improve public education on this issue. Part of this will be introducing Older Driver Safety Awareness Week.

It is important to keep in mind that while some older drivers may struggle with sight or might have cognitive health problems, a car accident involving a senior driver is not always their fault. Other drivers on the road must also be safe and keep an eye out for potential hazards. Those who cause car accidents through careless driving or inattention can be held liable in a negligence action.

Source: USA Today, “Feds making new rules for senior drivers,” Matt Schmitz, Dec. 8, 2013.  

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