As number of elderly drivers grows, NHTSA focuses on accident prevention
By now, many people have heard stories of elderly drivers being involved in unusual accidents that other drivers likely would have been able to avoid. With the proportion of older drivers growing by the year, it would not be surprising if people in Worcester County, Massachusetts, began hearing more stories of these preventable car accidents in the coming years.
The issue of allowing older drivers to maintain their mobility while keeping other drivers safe is a complicated one. Still, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has recently announced that it will be researching ways to keep the roadways safer while allowing drivers to stay behind the wheel for as long as possible.
Number of older drivers – and accidents – rising
The NHTSA reports that the number of drivers over age 65 has increased significantly in the last decade, and that the number of these drivers who are injured or even killed every year has also risen. It is important to note that older drivers have a greater risk of sustaining serious or fatal injuries in a crash than younger drivers do. Still, the following facts are alarming:
- In 2012, over 200,000 people over age 65 were injured, and over 5,000 were fatally injured.
- The number of injuries represented a 16 percent increase from 2011.
- The population of adults older than 65 has grown 20 percent since 2003, while the number of licensed drivers in this group has grown by 21 percent.
- There are currently 35 million licensed drivers who are 65 or older.
These statistics did not include injuries sustained by passengers riding with elderly drivers or people in other vehicles. However, the growing number of licensed older drivers and associated accidents suggests that a greater number of other drivers may also be affected by these accidents. The NHTSA states that improving safety for older drivers will serve to improve safety for everyone on the road.
Reducing elderly driver accidents
The NHTSA plans to focus on several areas to help prevent accidents involving older drivers. The organization will explore vehicle safety technologies such as vehicle-to-vehicle communication, collect more accident data and increase research into physical changes that put older drivers at risk. Through public education efforts, these drivers may become better aware of risk factors and be more careful when choosing to drive.
The CDC has already reported that there are various situations in which older adults avoid driving. Nighttime and inclement weather were the conditions that made male and female drivers over age 65 most likely to avoid getting behind the wheel; more than 60 percent of females surveyed would not drive in either condition. Women were also more likely than men to refuse to drive on highways, for long trips and in heavy traffic.
With technological improvements and research into factors that put older drivers at a higher risk, the NHTSA may achieve its goal of making the roadways safer. Of course, there will still be some accidents that will not be prevented by these measures, even if they could have been prevented by one of the drivers involved.
If you have been hurt in an accident that you believe was caused by another driver, even an older driver, consider speaking with an attorney the specifics of your case and the possibility of pursuing compensation.